A policeman who falsely claimed to be off work sick while he was fitting new bathrooms was yesterday given a suspended prison sentence.
Pc Steve Trendell, from south London, had debts running into tens of thousands of pounds and made "a stupid decision" to supplement his income, Wimbledon Magistrates' Court was told.
The 30-year-old, who has since resigned from the force, provided sick notes, but while he was off work for three days in October 2004 he fitted a new bathroom and over ten days in May and June 2005 he installed a boiler and a bathroom, the court had previously heard.
Yesterday he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, suspended for a year, for two offences of deception, to run concurrently. He was also told he should undertake 250 hours of unpaid work on each of the two charges.
The ex-officer, wearing a smart blue suit, stood in the dock with his head bowed as magistrate Edith MacAuley told him: "You were a serving police officer when you committed these offences of deception. You have lost your reputation as a result of them.
"We take these matters very seriously as they involve fraud of the public purse in that you were working as a bathroom fitter when you claimed to be on sick leave with a bad back."
Prosecutor Mark Carroll told the court that in an 18-month period before his arrest in February this year, Tren-dell had taken 246 days off sick, with a further 130 days on "recuperative duties", and had worked for some 71 days.
Mr Carroll said the ex-officer had been told he could not perform operational duties for 12 months by the Metropolitan Police's chief medical officer, a term which would have taken him to August this year.
However, the force received a tip-off that he had been working while being certificated on sick leave. His line managers visited his home in Sutton to find the house empty.
In mitigation, Heather Stangoe told the bench her client had not only faced the prospect of jail but had also paid a heavy price for his actions.