A BIG Issue middleman has been jailed for stealing more than £5,000.

James Woodley was supposed to collect money from sellers of the magazine and hand it to the distributors.

But a court heard he pocketed £5,500 before matters came to light.

Chelmsford Crown Court also heard Woodley had stolen from his bosses before, but they kept him on after he said he would repay what he had stolen.

The 33-year-old was told by a judge it had been a serious breach of trust and there was no alternative to a prison sentence.

Woodley, of South Street, Colchester, was jailed for 15 months after he admitted charges of theft and burglary.

Rex Bryan, prosecuting, said Woodley worked for the Matrix Foundation, which distributed the Big Issue magazine in Colchester and north Essex. He was supposed to collect money from magazine sellers and pass it on to the organisation, but Mr Bryan said Woodley stole their cash.

Between March 2010 and April last year, he got away with a total of £5,500 before financial checks revealed what he had been doing.

Woodley also admitted a burglary at the former Army garrison buildings in Flagstaff Road, Colchester, in January this year.

The court heard security guards saw him armed with a crowbar and a search revealed about £100 worth of copper had been removed from the building, and was bagged up ready to be taken away.

Marc Brown, mitigating, said Woodley’s offending stemmed from his addiction to drugs.

Judge Sara Staite told Woodley: “The theft was a serious breach of trust and it was made worse by the fact you had stolen from them before, but they had been charitable and allowed you to continue working for them.”