A BUSINESSMAN who turned into a near £15,000 conman when he fell on hard times has walked free from court.

Peter Crosbie, 45, ran a lighting and sound company, which had got into debt.

He already had existing debts and was trying to hide his severe financial troubles both from his partner Michelle Etherington and others, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told in panic, Crosbie presented false cheques from a book on a joint account, formerly held by Miss Etherington and her ex-partner, to bailiffs and loan companies in a bid to placate them when they knocked on the door.

He knew they would bounce - and they did. The defendant also took out a credit card over the internet in the name of Miss Etherington's father and ran up a bill of more than £3,000.

Miss Etherington's parents then received a letter from bailiffs saying they owed over £1,000.

Her father knew he didn't owe any money.

Crosbie, of Gloucester Road, Blackburn, admitted five allegations of false accounting and fraud and asked for nine offences to be considered.

He was given nine months in jail, suspended for two years, with mental health treatment.

He must pay £1,700 compensation to Mr Smith.