A STUDENT who stole mobile phones because he could not afford to pay his rent has avoided jail after magistrates said they “did not want to ruin his future.”

Oakeji Idowu, 21, appeared before magistrates in Worcester on August 29 charged with theft and fraud after he stole iPhones while working at Vodafone in Worcester.

The thefts took place between July 12 and August 7 last year.

The court heard how Idowu, who was a student at the University of Worcester, but now lives in Greenwich, London, was struggling to afford his rent and decided to steal the phones and sell them at Cash Converters.

At the time of the thefts he was living in Norfolk Close, Worcester.

Sara Clewer, prosecuting, said: “The defendant was working at Vodafone while living in Worcester as a student and on August 8, noticed that several phones were missing from their boxes in the stock room.

“CCTV shows the defendant going into the stock cages and taking phones out.

“On July 13, the defendant took an iPhone 6 into Cash Converters and signed a form saying that it belonged to him.

“He did the same thing again and made £130 for another iPhone on July 20. He also got £110 for an iPhone 6s and on July 23 received £183 for an iPhone 7.

“Footage from the Vodafone stockroom on July 21 shows him putting a piece of paper over the camera.”

Following the thefts, the area manager was called and a stock take was carried out at the store.

17 phones were reported as missing, but Idowu and his defence solicitor Mark Sheward claimed he had only taken “between five and 10”.

The court heard how Idowu, an Italian national, was living in Worcester without any financial support from his parents in London and had fallen behind on his rent, leading him to steal the phones.

Mr Sheward said: “At the time of the offence, he received no money from his parents for accommodation or living costs.

“He got himself a part time job but fell into rent arrears and was worried that he would be asked to leave his accommodation, leave his course and go back home.

“The shop claims that 17 phones were missing but he does not accept that - he says he remembers taking between five and 10 phones.

“The phones were then sold and the money used to pay rent.

“He accepts responsibility and doesn’t say he didn’t steal them. He is not someone who has been before the court before, with only one conviction from when he was a youth.

“He has left university now, and has a good job with a recruitment office in London.

“He has moved on from what happened and at the time, he was someone who had no money and chose the wrong option to get out of that corner.”

The court was shown a character reference for Idowu from the Charlton Athletic Community Trust, and magistrates decided to impose a community order and a hefty fine, sparing the 21 year-old a custodial sentence.

Magistrates decided to charge Idowu £100 for each of the 10 phones he accepted he stole.

In addition, they ordered him to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.

Chair of the bench Judy Hulland said: “This was really very serious.

“You were in a position of trust, and by covering the camera and taking the phones you blew that trust.

“You say you took between five and 10 of the phones so we are going to fine you the value of 10.

“We would be looking at a custodial sentence if it weren’t for your age and previous good record and that we don’t believe you will do it again.

“We don’t want to ruin your future.”

In addition to the £1,000 repayment for the phones he stole, Idowu was also ordered to pay £270 in fines, compensation and a victim surcharge, making a total of £1,270.