Two Preston Whiteside insurance brokers have been jailed after defrauding hundreds of small businesses out of insurance premiums.

Paul Newton and Mathew Walker, who ran the Doncaster-based insurance business, were sentenced to 15 months' and eight months' imprisonment, respectively.

The pair, who were also disqualified as company directors for seven years, admitted to fraudulent trading, predominantly in Northern Ireland, after creating a multi-million pound "uninsured risk vacuum".

The conviction of Newton and Walker follows a three-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which was prompted by a referral from South Yorkshire police.

South Yorkshire police had been working in conjunction with the Police Service of Northern Ireland following a number of complaints.

The court heard that initial investigations revealed that both Newton and Walker had consistently traded fraudulently, leaving companies and individuals without the insurance cover that they had paid for.

It was told that until the summer of 2002 Preston Whiteside placed Northern Irish clients, who were typically small businesses, with NIG via another broker.

NIG stopped accepting business from Northern Ireland in June 2002, but Newton and Walker continued to accept business, receive premiums and sent out "cover in place" letters to more than 500 clients.