HMA v William Henderson

At the Sheriff Court in Edinburgh today Sheriff Donald Corke sentenced William Henderson to 16 months imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to forming and operating a fraudulent scheme at Mount Vernon Cemetery whereby he received money for unauthorised burial plots. On sentencing, Sheriff Corke made the following statement in court:

William Henderson, you pled guilty at an early stage to forming a fraudulent scheme to obtain money by selling burial plots to members of the public. You were employed in a position of trust as the superintendent of Mount Vernon cemetery in Edinburgh, which was managed by the Roman Catholic Church. You engaged in this fraudulent scheme between 2006 and 2015. During that time you deliberately and systematically cheated people out of the legal and decent burial plots they were expecting by taking money for plots that were already owned, or were non-existent or otherwise unavailable. You also obtained the deeds for a plot. You covered your tracks by altering official records and producing false documents. You have clearly caused the most enormous distress. You did this in the most hypocritical and callous way, while pretending to be loyal to the Church and a friend to people who were at their most vulnerable. The Church was left to fix the damage you had caused and to pay some £14,720 back to your victims. I understand that your solicitors are in funds to repay that money. 

You do have a record for non-analogous offences but have never been sentenced to custody. I have had regard to the whole circumstances of the case, as very fairly presented both by the Crown and your own solicitor, and the terms of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report. You are assessed as presenting a low risk of further recidivism. You are assessed as not presenting a high risk of serious harm in respect of further offending. However, your appreciation of the seriousness of your actions comes late in the day. You only stopped after your scheme began to unravel and the damage had been done. The opportunity is simply unlikely to recur.

Given the deliberate nature of your behaviour, the breach of trust involved, the distress caused and the considerable period that your behaviour lasted, there is in my view no appropriate method of dealing with you other than custody. That will be for a period of 16 months (which would have been 24 months had it not been for your early plea) to run from today’s date. In addition, I am making a compensation order in the sum of £14,720 in favour of the appropriate Diocese.

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