A FORMER director of a building firm has avoided jail for stealing plant machinery worth nearly £60,000 – after a court heard he was forced to do it by a gangster to clear a drug debt.

Grant Gorniak, a founding member of Gormac Construction, stole an excavator worth £10,000, a JCB excavator worth £25,000 and a digger worth £22,000.

But he was rumbled after stealing from JW Grant, which has a base in Love Street, Paisley.

Police were able to find the excavator as it had a built-in tracking device, while the digger was found at Abington Services, on the M74, after Gorniak told them where it was.

Procurator fiscal depute Pamela Brady told Paisley Sheriff Court that, between February 20 and 28, Gorniak hired items from companies which he did not return – including nail guns worth more than £2,606 from two businesses and spray equipment worth £2,000 from a third firm.

Ms Brady said his technique was similar in each case.

She said: “He enters the tool hire and supply stores, provides identification and a deposit and hires various items.

“All items were hired by the accused and not returned when they were due.

“All matters were reported to the police and enquiries were undertaken.”

Ms Brady said all of the vehicles were recovered, while the nail guns and spray equipment have never been found.

The details emerged last month when 37-year-old Gorniak pleaded guilty to six charges of theft at a pre-trial hearing.

He returned to the dock last week to be sentenced.

Defence solicitor Kenneth Greener said the dad-of-two, who had developed a cocaine addiction, felt he had no option but to commit the offences after running up a £7,000 drug debt he could not pay.

The solicitor explained Gorniak had been threatened with violence unless he agreed to hire the equipment and take it to his home where it would effectively be stolen.

Mr Greener added: “He should have gone to the police but was afraid to do so because this man is of such a disposition and has a propensity for violence.

“This other man went with him and paid the deposits – effectively my client was driven around by this man to various locations.”

After hearing that Gorniak had been fully co-operative following his arrest and that prosecutors accepted he had been subjected to coercion, Sheriff Colin Pettigrew spared him jail.

He ordered Gorniak, of Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire, to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work in the next year and attend drug counselling when directed to as part of a Community Payback Order.