A Devon retailer who stole £47,000 from the Post Office has been spared prison thanks to his customers.

Michael Andrews, who ran Glenholt Post Office in Plymouth, stole more than £47,000 over the course of 2010 to keep his then-troubled Londis store afloat. He was discovered when the Post Office carried out a standard audit. Michael admitted the fraud and paid the money back immediately with a loan received from his parents.

He was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 10 months in prison, but this was suspended for two years when the judge saw the "volume and breadth of support from the local community" which included a petition that had been signed by more than 100 people.

Michael was also sentenced to 300 hours of unpaid community work and ordered to pay £300 prosecution costs. According to his defence, Michael's business is in now back in profit, but he is no longer in charge of the post office.

A Royal Mail spokesman said that retailers concerned over finances should contact them immediately. "We welcome hearing from our subpostmasters about any concerns they may have. All of our subpostmasters are able to freely contact us and we would always seek to provide advice and support."