POLICE stopped a postman outside a pub on suspicion of drink-driving and discovered 40 franked and stamped postal packets in the boot of his car, Southampton Crown Court heard.

When Craig Priddey was questioned outside the New Forest pub, his wallet was found to contain two cheques from cheque books which he should have delivered on his rounds, said prosecutor Lawrence Henderson.

One cheque had been made out to himself for £175, and the other for £190 had been written in favour of another man to cover a debt over a holiday in Spain.

Priddey, 32, of Cullwood Lane, New Milton, admitted theft and delaying post in the course of transmission.

Jailing him for four months, Judge Peter Henry said postal workers were in a particularly high degree of trust and owed a debt to society.

He said: “The public have a right to expect mail to be safely and securely delivered.”

He accepted that the offences were particularly unsophisticated and not thought through, but he added: “Public policy must dictate that people who steal from the mail face a custodial sentence and there has to be a deterrent element in such a sentence.”

In mitigation, Tim Compton said that the offences were unsophisticated, had not been committed over a lengthy period of time, and Priddey had not gained anything.

He said: “He has lost his job and deservedly so. If he is sent to prison, he has nobody to blame but himself.”