A FORMER sub-postmaster who swindled thousands of pounds from the Post Office has been barred for a month from all the pubs in his village.

A judge told Ian Warren he wouldn’t jail him because he wasn’t a burglar or a violent criminal.

Instead, he said the pub ban – along with a suspended jail sentence and a community service order – would make the 62-year-old feel “symbolically excluded” from the community.

Warren, of St James Street, Castle Hedingham, admitted stealing £18,412 from Royal Mail.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told the defendant, postmaster at the village shop, in St James Street, for three years, pocketed money from scratchcards he sold, after falling heavily into debt.

He maintained he always planned to repay the money when his financial problems eased.

Before that could happen, however, the theft was discovered. The Post Office took away his franchise, although he still ran the shop.

Yesterday, Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC was told Warren had since inherited £70,000. He had used the money to pay some of his creditors and repay the money he had stolen from Royal Mail.

After reading testimonials a letter from Warren in which he spoke of his “utter shame”, Judge Goldstaub sentenced him to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to complete 75 hours of unpaid community service.

He also banned Warren from entering any public house within a mile of the centre of Castle Hedingham, specifically naming the Bird Inn.

The judge explained: “That is so there won’t be any question of you being thought to be celebrating your freedom – and also to mark the gravity of the matter among your peers and friends within the village.

“They will know you have been symbolically excluded from their community for that length of time.”

He continued: “I have taken into account that you are providing a service to the community by continuing to run the village shop.

“People may criticise this sentence as unduly lenient, but there seems to me no reason to deal with you more harshly than violent offenders or young burglars.”