A FORMER solicitor who lost £250,000 through his business and a property deal admitted theft and criminal damage when he appeared at Worcester Crown Court.

Andrew Dutton, aged 61, of Longmead Chambers, Birtsmorton, was said to be penniless and eking out his £100-a-week benefit by offering legal advice on a website.

Giving him a two-year conditional discharge, Judge John Cavell told him: "It's tragic to see a man of your professional background standing in the dock at crown court over what is a civil dispute. You behaved extremely stupidly."

Dutton was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £100 costs. A third charge of assault was not proceeded with and Dutton agreed to be bound over for two years in the sum of £250.

He admitted damaging fittings from a house known as Longmead, Birtsmorton, between November 2005 and January last year. He also pleaded guilty to stealing fittings from the property, although his barrister, Samuel Butterfield, said most had been recovered.

Mr Butterfield said Dutton and another man had been involved in a deal over Longmead and hoped for a £495,000 sale. But Dutton had reneged on the agreement and lost £250,000 coupled with problems in his business as a family law solicitor. He was now living in a rented house.

"He accepts he should have dealt with the problems in another way and came off very much the worse," said Mr Butterfield.