HMA v JOHN WARNE

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court Sheriff Crowe sentenced John Warne to 12 months imprisonment after he pled guilty to embezzling funds while in the employment of Edinburgh City Council.

On sentencing Sheriff Crowe made the following statement in court:

6 December 2013

“On 5 November 2013 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court you pled guilty to a charge of embezzling £122,925.39 while in the employment of Edinburgh City Council.

I was told by the Procurator Fiscal Depute that some time ago Glasgow City Council won a landmark case against H M Revenue and Customs when the court held that payments incurred in carrying out statutory repairs on buildings where exempt from Value Added Tax.

In the wake of that ruling the City of Edinburgh Council set up a team of which you were part to trawl through past accounts to reclaim VAT from HMRC. During a period between July 2008 and May 2010 you diverted some of the receipts received from HMRC to your own benefit. In particular you indulged in a hobby with classic cars, carried out improvements to the driveway and garden of your home, made mortgage payments on buy to let properties which you had previously acquired and paid for lengthy holidays for your relatives.

Remarkably these diversions of funds to payees who were not entitled to these sums did not come to light until sometime after you had taken early retirement from the Council. I note that since proceedings have been raised you have made full repayment of the amount embezzled and this has involved selling the home in which you live with your wife.

You have a previous good record and in various testimonials received you have in many aspects of life in carrying out voluntary work in the community and being the primary carer for your mother. It is all the more astonishing given this good record and the esteem in which you have been held by others that there came a time when you felt justified in diverting funds reclaimed by the Council which were proving difficult to remit to the rightful parties due to the passage of time. Mr Roy spoke fully on your work to help the community and others.

I am taking into account your previous good record, that full repayment has been made and that your plea of guilty was tendered at a very early stage. Nevertheless I am left with a situation where you as a public servant embezzled funds from the Council for your own benefit and to make gifts to friends and family. I was urged to consider making a maximum 300 hour community payback order however a breach of trust of this magnitude can, in my view, only be met by a prison sentence.

Had the case proceeded to trial I would have imposed a sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment. In light of the early plea of guilty which avoided the need for the Crown to prepare for a complex trial and cite many witnesses I am prepared to restrict the sentence to 12 months imprisonment from today.”

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