HMA v Lynn Taylor

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court today, 24 August 2017, Sheriff Frank Crowe sentenced Lynn Taylor to a Restriction of Liberty Order and made a Community Payback Order after the accused pled guilty to embezzling the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society of £220,331.12.

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

“Lynn Taylor, on 27 July you admitted embezzling the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society of £220,331.12 which occurred over a period of nearly seven years.

“During this period you were employed as finance manager for the charity and were so employed as a consequence of your professional qualification as a chartered accountant.

“The crime of embezzlement involves breach of a position of trust to steal money and in your case this occurred on many occasions during the period.

“Your criminal activity was only discovered in the early part of 2015 when the Festival Fringe Society brought in outsiders to set up new pension scheme under the Government’s payroll provisions

“In the course of this exercise you were asked to provide information and indicated that sums of money which had been moved in your name were in respect of pension deductions.

“However enquiries revealed that those sums had not been applied to a pension scheme but had been paid to your own personal account.

“When challenged about the extent of these money transfers you indicated that you may have overpaid yourself.

“However, when the full extent was discussed with you by your employers you said that you had been stressed and this was the reason for actions. You said that you had taken money on the first occasion but thereafter had ‘got greedy’ and continued to take money from your employers to finance your lifestyle when you had ‘got away with it’.

“It is noteworthy that shortly after the embezzlement was discovered you repaid £100,000 and subsequently paid the remaining £110,000 as well as £40,000 costs incurred by the charity when raising civil proceedings against you to recover the money stolen by you.

“I understand that by taking those proceedings against you the money was recovered by April 2016.

“Thereafter the Festival Fringe Society reported the circumstances to the police and when interviewed by them in May 2016 admitted full responsibility.

“A further delay seems to have occurred as it was not until February of this year that criminal proceedings were commenced against you when you appeared on petition in this court.

“An early plea of guilty was forthcoming from you and this will be taken into account in passing sentence.

“I note also that your solicitors contacted the Crown with a view to resolving this case at an even earlier stage but this could not be entertained until the Crown had a police report informing them of the full circumstances.

“In the interim I understand that disciplinary proceedings were raised against you by your professional body which resulted in the imposition of a fine and being struck off the role of chartered accountants.

“As some explanation for your behaviour I was advised your counsel that you had been badly affected by the death of your brother and other close family members and had been concerned at your daughter’s health.

“It does appear however that much of the money embezzled was used by you in the owning of horses and participating in show jumping activities.

“I was also advised that you consider you made repayment of £10,000 more than you consider you took but that this is evidence of your wish to resolve matters with your former employers once your criminal actions had come to light.

“To enable prompt repayment of the amount sought I understand that your family home which was owned jointly with your husband was sold.

“I have seen evidence that you have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and have been found after tests to have been significantly clinically depressed.

“I was also told that in the interim your husband retired and that you have been living abroad with him but returned to Scotland to face these proceedings which avoided the need to invoke European Arrest Warrant extradition procedures.

“In passing sentence I take into account your lack of previous convictions, the tendering of a plea at an early stage of proceedings, that there was early and full repayment and thereafter a delay on the part of the authorities in pursuing the criminal complaint.

“On the other hand this was a gross breach of trust, deliberately committed on many occasions over a significant period of time to indulge in an expensive hobby at the expense of your employers who are a charity responsible for running a festival with a huge international reputation and one which the public expect to run efficiently despite the huge demands upon the organisers.

“Your actions no doubt caused great upset and concern to the Society and incredulity and disappointment among those with whom you worked and trusted you.

“As I indicated to your counsel matters are aggravated by your professional position at the time which involves being subject to a code of conduct which clearly also was ignored by you. This element in cases of this type has long been seen as an aggravating feature by the High Court.

“Having considered all of your circumstances, I have reached the view put forward on your behalf that this is an exceptional case which would normally result in an immediate custodial sentence.

“You have the protection of 204(2) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 which states that a sentence of imprisonment should not be passed upon an adult first offender unless the court considers there is no other method of dealing with the case.

“You admitted your guilt in straight-forward terms at the outset-repaid the money, waved your right to a solicitor when interviewed by the police and made a full confession. The fact that it has taken two years to reach this stage is not your fault. I make no criticism of the Society who immediately took steps to preserve their financial position.

“I note your health is not good but it is clear than the depression you have suffered was no excuse for the embezzlement which funded an extravagant lifestyle.

“It is clear you are a low risk of re-offending and accordingly I have decided after much thought to impose a non-custodial sentence.

“You will be subject to an eight-month Restriction of Liberty Order, discounted from the maximum 12 months, from 9pm to 6am each night to reflect your early plea and co-operation with the process and in addition will make a 12-month community payback order where you will require to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work. Once again this is discounted from the 300 hour maximum.

“I will obtain a progress report on your performance on these orders and will call the case again on 23 February 2018 to ensure these orders are complied with.”