HMA v JENNIFER STEPHEN

Today at Peterhead Sheriff Court Sheriff Marysia Lewis sentenced Jennifer Stephen to 28 months in prison after she pled guilty to fraud while working within the Children and Families Team in Fraserburgh.

On sentencing Sheriff Lewis made the following statement in court:

“You appeared in this court on Indictment at a continued first diet on 3rd February 2011. At that time you pled guilty to a reduced charge and your plea of not guilty to charge 2 was accepted by the Crown.

On 3rd February I heard a detailed narration from the Crown and today I listened to an impassioned and carefully considered plea in mitigation from Mr Adam. In reaching my decision on sentence, I have had regard to everything that Mr Adam has said on your behalf. I have taken into account your age, your personal circumstances, your background, the circumstances of the offence, the impact the offence has had on your family and the shame brought upon you and your family. I also acknowledge that you are a first offender. Without doubt your career has been tarnished.

The Social Enquiry Report indicates that you present as low risk of re-offending. 

I accept that you deeply regret your actions and that you are upset by the impact which this offence has had on your family.

However, you had control of an element of the spending budget for the Children and Family’s Team. You knew the system for ordering goods for families most in need. You held a position of trust within the Team and you seriously abused that trust. You carried out these activities over a significant period of time. Some of the goods were in the bracket of luxury goods for example gym equipment. Some of the household goods were upgrades of what you already had. Most of the items of clothing were for your children and were bought in bulk. These purchases were for your benefit or the benefit of your family and in making these purchases you diminished the fund available for those in real need.

Mr Adam suggested that I consider Community Service as a direct alternative to custody. He submitted that such an order combined with an order for restitution would be sufficient punishment as well as being in the public interest. I have given careful consideration to that submission. However, due to the gravity of the offence and your persistence in this fraudulent activity the only appropriate sentence is that of custody.  You pled guilty to the offence at a continued first diet thus avoiding the need for a trial and bringing many witnesses to court and you will be given credit for that.

The sentence is that of 36 months reduced to 28 months to reflect the early plea”.