A personal banker at Solihull's Barclays' branch used his position of trust to put through bogus loans and then divert £171,000 to his own account.

Matthew Bardsley told police he had taken the money because he wanted to move out of Chelmsley Wood where he was being " persecuted" because of his sexuality.

At Warwick Crown Court yesterday, Bardsley (22), of Truro Walk, was jailed for 12 months after admitting eight charges of false accounting and two of theft.

Sentencing Bardsley, Judge Richard Cole questioned whether he should have been in such a managerial position at his age.

John Edwards, prosecuting, said that in the year to last March, when his dishonesty came to light, Bardsley had been employed at the Barclays branch in Solihull as a personal banker.

He had authority to open accounts for customers, agree loans and transfer funds.

Over a period of five months Bardsley stole a total of just over £171,000 by applying for loans in the names of existing customers, said Mr Edwards.

After approving the loans himself, he paid the money into fictitious accounts before transferring it to his own account at the HSBC.

In some cases he arranged for documents to be sent to his two sisters, or to a friend, and later said he had paid them £1,000 for the use of their addresses.

Just before he was arrested in March - a year to the day after he had started at the bank - Bardsley had been negotiating to buy a top-ofthe-range BMW, said Mr Edwards, who pointed out that all but £14,200 of the money has been recovered.

Bardsley told police he had taken the money to enable him to move out of the Chelmsley Wood area where he said he was a victim of harassment because of his sexuality.

He claimed he did not see it as stealing because he was planning to become a chartered accountant and that if he had been able to pay the money back over a period of seven years, the bank would not have lost out in the end, added Mr Edwards.

Simon Phillips, defending, said Bardsley was "well-liked and respected", according to references he handed to the judge, and he had made frank admissions.

"It appears he had lost the plot, if I can put it like that. He clearly did intend to repay the money at the outset, but he got in well above his head," said Mr Phillips. "He felt he was being persecuted by people who lived alongside him in his community, and felt he had to do something desperate to get out of that."

Mr Phillips said Bardsley's father was very ill with angina and asked the judge to consider a suspended sentence with a supervision order.

But jailing Bardsley, Judge Cole told him: "You have admitted false accounting and two offences of theft, and the amount you stole was in the region of £171,000.

"You were employed by Barclays bank where you were in a position of trust, and you betrayed that trust.

"I have no doubt that people will be hurt and will suffer as a result of you having to go to prison, but I have come to the conclusion that the only possible sentence is a sentence of imprisonment."

Speaking after the case, Lisa Kennedy, Barclays' regional liaison manager for the West Midlands, said: "It is important that we offer our staff the opportunity to further develop their career within the organisation.

"Both newly appointed and newly promoted staff are closely monitored for a probationary period."