A COMPANY boss who withheld details of a pension plan when his business went bust came close to being jailed yesterday.

Judge Peter Bowers told John Hillhouse, 60, that he had deliberately avoided giving his creditors cash from the £20,000 fund.

After his cash and carry business faltered, he entered into an individual voluntary arrangement with debts of £40,000.

Teesside Crown Court heard that he should have disclosed details of all of his assets and liabilities to the Official Receiver.

Hillhouse agreed to pay 48p in the pound to HM Revenues and Customs and the firms to which he owed money in 2009.

Last year, it emerged that he also had a pension fund which he had not disclosed, prosecutor Simon Clegg told the court.

Hillhouse, who represented himself in court, claimed he had been told the retirement plan was exempt from his assets.

He told Judge Bowers that he had “no wish” to be sent to prison, and denied deliberately withholding the information.

Hillhouse, of High Street, Marske, near Redcar, east Cleveland, admitted making a fraudulent declaration as a debtor.

He was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with £1,000 costs and 200 hours of community work.

Judge Bowers told him: “The only reason I am suspending it, is because these matters did occur some time ago.

“You have rebuilt your life and it would seem a shame to put you in prison at this stage.”

The court heard that Hillhouse now works part-time for a supermarket – a job he described as “a lifeline”.