A man who helped steal £1,500 worth of scrap metal told police he was "set up", a court heard.

Paul Surplice was "frightened" of his accomplices when he agreed to wait in a car outside Collard Environmental in Nursling while two burglars broke into the site.

He was arrested after a staff member’s dashcam caught him outside the premises in Lee Lane.

The 52-year-old was involved in three burglaries in the space of a week.

Prosecuting, Paul Fairly said Surplice was the driver and had been tasked with waiting outside whilst his accomplices went in to steal metal before putting it back in the car.

When interviewed in February 2022, he initially denied being involved.

But after being shown photographs, he claimed "people tried to set him up".

His accomplices were covering their faces and wearing hoodies.

They have not been identified despite police asking Surplice who they were.

Surplice, of Rownhams Road, North Baddesley, later pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and a walk-in theft and appeared for sentencing at Southampton Crown Court on Thursday.

Mitigating, Jamie Gammon said his client "has always maintained he didn’t enter the premises" adding that he had been tasked with “driving to and from” the site.

“It has been explained to him that he is party to it if he is the driver. It is quite clear he has been used as the driver in his own vehicle.

“He is still, it seems, frightened of these people who he tells me have assaulted him in the past.

“He remains vulnerable. My understanding is he didn’t receive any rewards for doing what he was told.”

Surplice was given a 12-month community order with 12 rehabilitation days and a £150 fine for his involvement in the burglaries on November 11, 15 and 17, 2021.

Judge Peter Henry said: “You were, in effect, put under pressure.

“It would appear that the others who committed the burglary obviously have, first of all, decided where to burgle but they had also taken steps to disguise themselves.

“There was an element of planning by them.

“If I were sentencing you for having organised and profited from these burglaries it would seem to me a custodial sentence would be inevitable.

“There has also been a significant delay in this case. You have not, as I understand, committed offences since.”