A SOFA-surfer was accused of taking advantage of his host by raiding her savings account and making off with a prized engagement ring.

But Caleb Crayford avoided an immediate prison sentence after a Swindon judge heard the 23-year-old was turning his life around.

Swindon Crown Court was told Crayford was estranged from his family, addicted to gambling and cannabis, and sofa surfing when he was taken in by a Kingshill family in late 2018.

But he took advantage of the trust placed in him, stealing an engagement ring and a Nationwide bank card belonging to his host.

Nicholas Fridd, prosecuting, said Crayford had plundered almost £3,000 from the woman’s savings account over a fortnight in late October and early November 2018. He had withdrawn cash at ATM machines in Swindon and Cheltenham.

Interviewed by police, Crayford claimed he had met an unnamed associate one night in the car park near the Casbah nightclub on John Street. The mystery man had handed over a bank card and pin number and told Crayford to withdraw cash. Crayford said he had never realised the bank card belonged to his host.

No victim impact statement was read to the court. But Mr Fridd said of the effect of Crayford’s crimes on his victim: “She must obviously feel cheated.”

Crayford, of Wood Lane, Chippenham, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one count of fraud by false representation.

Nicholas Lee, defending, said the offences had been committed at a difficult point in his client’s life: “It’s a time when he was unemployed, estranged from his family, struggling with his mental health, had low self-esteem and managing all of that in the wrong ways through cannabis use, gambling and a desire to impress those who he thought were his friends.”

The situation was now very different. Crayford was employed at a supermarket, no longer smoked cannabis, gambled only very occasionally, was reunited with his family and was living with his girlfriend, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Crayford was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “Notwithstanding the kindness that was being shown to you, you committed offences against your host.

“Whilst there you stole her credit card and her £800 engagement ring. You then proceeded to use that card on nine occasions over six days.”

He added: “These are mean offences and will have cause your host anxiety and distress, not least because of the understandable sentimental value of the engagement ring.

“This was a gross abuse of the trust they had placed in you at a time when they were trying simply to avoid you feeling unwanted.

“You took advantage of their sympathy.”

Crayford must complete 160 hours of unpaid work, 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days and pay £1,800 in compensation.