Please can I pay it back over the next 14 years? Offer by the chef who ran up an £8,752 phone bill

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A REDUNDANT chef ran up a mobile phone bill of more than £8,500 at the expense of his former employers.

Michael Dunnett, 45, of Haugh Shaw Road, Halifax, found himself in hot water as he used the phone to search for a new job.

Records showed that in a ten month period he racked up a total bill of £8,752.74.

Dunnett was employed as a chef by the Inc Group, in the London borough of Bexley, in February 2010, and was given a Blackberry mobile to use for work purposes.

Calderdale Magistrates Court heard that he was made redundant by the company in December 2010 but they thought he left on good terms.

However, Dunnett didn’t return the mobile worth £150 and a few days later began using it.

When the phone broke a few months later he even moved the sim card into a new handset and carried on using it.

Part of the phenomenal bill was made up of expensive roaming charges from Dunnett using the phone while in the Republic of Ireland.

The court heard that when the activity was finally recognised by the company he offered to repay the bill in installments of £50 a month.

It would have taken him more than 14 and a half years.

Dunnett admitted a charge of theft of the mobile phone and running up the bill with intent to avoid payment.

Phil Axon, defending, said: “He has run up this incredibly substantial phone bill and he is ashamed and sorry.

“On top of losing his job he then lost his home and moved back up here.”

He said that Dunnett had an extremely difficult year and he provided the sole income for his family.

“The thought of a custodial sentence puts the fear of God into him,” said Mr Axon.

“He said he would do 1,000 hours’ unpaid work to try and make up for this.”

In the end magistrates decided 300 hours of unpaid work would be sufficient.

They also ordered him to pay £1,200 in compenstation to the Inc Group.

Chair of the magistrates Jill Fletcher blasted him for hiding from his problems. She said: “You have to stop being an ostrich”.