A MAN who stole specialist equipment while working at Sellafield has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Nicholas Hanna was employed as an instrument mechanic at the west Cumbria nuclear plant when he pinched two pressure calibrators potentially worth almost £20,000 last December.

Carlisle Crown Court heard how 27-year-old Hanna then duped a friend into letting him use an eBay account to sell the items.

One calibrator – worth £3,000 as new – was bought for £220, and another, worth £16,500 as new, was snapped up by a different purchaser for just under £5,000.

“Sellafield were clearly very concerned about the potential dangers with regard to radiation,” prosecutor Reginald Mills told the court. “They had to despatch operators to test the equipment in Manchester, Shetland and at the defendant’s home.”

He added: “All items were found to be clean and safe.”

Hanna, of King Street, Maryport, was sentenced yesterday having admitted two counts of theft. He had lost his job, the court heard.

A 12-month prison sentence was suspended for two years by Judge Peter Davies, who also imposed 150 hours’ unpaid work and £750 costs.

“You are a dishonest man, Mr Hanna,” Judge Davies told him. “But I am not going to fill the prisons with dishonest people like you. You should be punished elsewhere.”

Victoria Agullo for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Nicholas Hanna acted out of foolish greed when he sold items he had stolen from his place of work. He advertised the items as used, but like new, and in good condition. However they had been used at a nuclear site which could have potentially put the buyers’ lives and public safety at risk.

“When faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he was left with no other choice but to plead guilty to offences he faced.”

Following the court case, Sellafield released a statement saying: “We carried out thorough monitoring which demonstrated no contamination associated with the item.

“No risk was posed to the workforce, public or environment.”