The financial manager of a Suffolk marketing company who used £470,000 of his employers money to fund his gambling addiction has been jailed for 28 months.

Andrew Ward, who was employed by Toolbox Marketing of Bardwell, transferred money from company bank accounts into his own account over a period of five months, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Hugh Vass, prosecuting, said Ward had spent £470,000 of the company's money on gambling and although he had been able to repay £340,000 there was a shortfall of £130,000.

The court heard that when another member of staff questioned him about discrepancies Ward had been "evasive and aggressive".

Jailing him for 28 months, Judge David Pugh described the fraud as a "gross breach of trust" over a number of months.

He said the offence had had "a not inconsiderable effect" on Toolbox Marketing.

He said that in 2016 Ward had been cautioned for an offence of fraud by abuse of position of a less serious nature and he wasn't therefore of previous good character.

Ward, 30, of Winthrop Road, Bury St Edmunds, admitted fraud by abusing his position as financial manager for Toolbox Marketing with the intention of making a gain of £130,000 for himself between September 1, 2018, and March 18, 2019.

The court heard that the company had been operating for 19 years and had 30 permanent members of staff.

Ward had been taken on as the company's financial manager in September 2018 and had started defrauding his employers two months later in November.

The fraud came to light after another employee voiced concerns about discrepancies in the company's accounts and accused Ward of being "evasive and aggressive" when she questioned him.

When Ward was challenged about the missing money he confessed taking it for his own use and asked his employers not to contact the police.

The court heard that as a result of Ward's deception managers and staff at Toolbox had spent 150 hours unravelling the extent of the fraud and had spent £17,000 on legal and accountancy fees.

The fraud had impacted on the business in a number of ways including staff morale.

Declan Gallagher, for Ward, said his client had taken steps to get help for his addiction by attending Gamblers Anonymous and had made good progress.

He said that as a result of the fraud Ward's professional qualifications were now worthless.

He said Ward had been involved in sporting and charitable activities and was well-liked by his peers in sport.

Mr Gallagher handed the court a number of character references.