HMA v Joseph Patrick McGuire

Today at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Sheriff Fiona Reith QC sentenced Joseph McGuire after he pleaded guilty to having formed a fraudulent scheme in the course of his employment at the National Museum of Scotland and having obtained postage stamps with a total face value of £14,458 by fraud.

On sentencing, Sheriff Reith made the following statement in court: 

“I heard the Crown narrative on 5 August 2015 and I have also had the benefit of a full and careful plea-in-mitigation from Mr Campbell.  

I have taken into account all that has been said on your behalf by Mr Campbell, including your age, your background, your personal and family circumstances, the care and support that you provide for your father, the circumstances in which the offence was committed, that you were previously of good character and that you have no previous convictions. 

I have also taken account of the contents of the report by Dr Holloway which was provided to me by Mr Campbell on your behalf. 

I have also taken into account what is said in the Social Work Report prepared for Court. 

You tendered a plea of guilty and it suggested that, in the circumstances about which I was told, this plea should properly be treated as if it had been tendered at the first opportunity. I agree. As a matter of law, you are entitled to credit for that. I therefore require to modify my sentence to take account of that, and I shall do that. 

I was reminded by Mr Campbell that the writer of the social work report has recommended that a community service order would be available as a direct alternative to custody and that you would be a suitable candidate for such a disposal. I also take into account that you are willing to repay monies due to the National Museum and it was suggested that a compensation order might be possible. 

However, I also have to bear in mind other factors which underline the serious nature of this offence.  These factors include the following: 

  1. This was really a quite sophisticated scheme devised by you (apparently after having felt unfairly treated by your employers following earlier disciplinary proceedings) which was then systematically persisted in month by month over a sustained period of about two and a half years;
  2. This was in a situation where you were in a position of trust as regards your employers, the National Museum of Scotland, and 
  3. This resulted in quite significant loss to the National Museum of Scotland. 

I have considered carefully whether any disposal other than custody would be appropriate to mark and punish the offence. I was, in particular, urged to consider the possibility of a community service order at the highest level as a direct alternative to custody coupled with a possible compensation order.  

However, I think that it would send out quite the wrong message to you, and others like you in a position of trust contemplating such activities, if criminal activities of such a nature were to be marked by any disposal other than a custodial sentence to bring home to them that such criminal behaviour will not be tolerated by the courts and, if devised and put into effect, will be punished and punished firmly.  

In my judgment, therefore, in view of the nature and gravity of the offence in this case, no method of disposal other than custody would be appropriate. 

In all the circumstances, and giving due weight to all that has been said on your behalf coupled with the information in the social work report and the report from Dr Holloway, the period of imprisonment which I consider would be appropriate in order to mark and punish the offence is one of 12 months imprisonment. 

If you had not pled guilty in the circumstances in which you did, the sentence would have been of the order of 18 months’ imprisonment.”