A HIGHLY respected computer technician stole thousands of pounds worth of computers from a university to fund a drug habit, a court heard.

Kevin Lawless, who had been working at Solent University, took 24 Mac computers valued at £22,200 from its East Park Terrace premises.

The 62-year-old then wiped the devices before selling them on to a Cash Converters for £200 each.

Prosecutor Dan O’Neill told Southampton Magistrates’ Court that Lawless had “breached the trust” of the university.

Mr O’Neill added that the offending took place during the university’s summer break.

The court heard that when Lawless was arrested he confessed to officers and the university and was sacked.

Defending Julie Macey said Lawless had “lost everything”.

“He is a very socially isolated person with family either deceased or elderly,” she said.

“Work was his life and in his job he was highly respected by the people he worked with.”

Ms Macey added: “He did this for the first time when he needed the heroin and then continued to do so when he needed money.”

A report to the court said Lawless had relapsed back into heroine use to help him cope with pains he was getting in his leg.

The report confirmed that Lawless had been struggling with drug addiction since the late 1980s and he had checked himself into rehab on a number of occasions to resolve the issue.

It said: “He is very embarrassed about his behaviour because he has let down his colleagues, the university and himself by relapsing again.

“Lawless is very remorseful for what has happened.”

The court heard that Lawless began trying to buy painkillers from street dealers to help ease the pain in his leg.

But as he found heroin easier to buy than the tablets, he went back into drug addiction.

Magistrates agreed that the case was so serious any punishment they handed out would not be sufficient.

Lawless, of Malwood Avenue, pleaded guilty to theft by an employee and will be sentenced on April 6 at Southampton Crown Court.