A young Watford man who went on a spending spree after stealing more than £57,000 from his employers has narrowly escaped going to prison.

Billy Champion stayed in top London hotels, bought expensive clothes and end enjoyed the high life with the money

In two months he got through more than £45,000.

But when he appeared at Luton crown court on Friday he received a suspended sentence rather than being sent to jail.

Recorder Alistair Wright told 20 year old Champion: “You can count yourself pretty lucky.”

He told Champion: “This was all about greed - nothing more, nothing less.”

Champion, of Fox Hill, Watford, appeared for sentence after having previously pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and two counts of concealing or disguising criminal property.

Prosecutor Benedict Peers said Champion had worked for a Hemel Hempstead-based insurance company in the finance department.

It was in November of 2018 when the company was contacted by a firm of insurance brokers enquiring about a payment it had not received for £21,500.

An investigation began and it was discovered that Champion had diverted large sums of money that should have been paid to his employer’s clients, into accounts for his own benefit.

It was discovered that during a two-month period during the autumn of last year, payments totalling £57,387 had found their way to Champion, of which he had spent more than £45,000.

The court was told that Champion was now working as a builder and had stayed out of trouble since the offences were uncovered in late 2018.

Champion was given a two-year jail sentence in a young offenders institute, suspended for two years.

He was also told he would have to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and be subject to a tagged home curfew for the next four months, when he will have to be indoors between the hours of 8pm and 6am.

The recorder told Champion he could count himself lucky and said when he’d first read the case papers he was sure he would be sending him “straight inside”.