AN NHS business intelligence developer who reported an innocent couple to the NSPCC and told Crimestoppers they were plotting heroin smuggling, has been spared immediate jail.

Matthew Sundhu, 31, had claimed to the charity that their children were being beaten and left to fend for themselves.

He had then made a fake complaint to the police, alleging the couple were planning to go to Saudi Arabia and swallow drugs to get them into this country, Burnley magistrates heard.

The hearing was told how, as a result, two social workers turned up at the family's home in Nelson to see if the youngsters were being ill-treated.

The couple were investigated as suspected criminals and the father was confronted by customs officers and interrogated about his trip, his finances, drugs and the contents of his luggage in front of his wife and children when they landed at Birmingham airport after a holiday in Dubai.

Baggage was searched and swabs for drugs taken.

No illegal substances were found.

The couple, the court was told, had not been physically abusing their children. They had no connections with drugs and were totally law-abiding.

They were put through many sleepless nights and were left traumatised at Sundhu's hands, simply because there had been a family fall-out.

The defendant, a voluntary youth worker, had started his campaign with a threatening text message, telling the victim he was an idiot.

Sundhu had been given a police warning, but carried on.

The defendant, of Reedyford Road, Nelson, admitted harassment of the couple, on or between July 29 and August 10, last year.

He had no previous convictions.

Sundhu received eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, with 150 hours unpaid work and must pay £85 costs, a £60 victim surcharge and £200 compensation to his victims. The bench, who told him his conduct had caused significant distress to the family, also imposed a year-long restraining order.

Graeme Tindall, for the defendant, handed the bench 'glowing references' on Sundhu's behalf and said he was normally a responsible, God-fearing young man doing good in his family and the community.

Mr Tindall added: "This is an offence which is completely out of character and highly unlikely to occur at any stage in the future."