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Joanne Murray v Amanda Donaldson

Following a civil proof at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll has ruled that the defender (Amanda Donaldson) is liable to repay £18,734 to the pursuer (Joanne Murray), as a result of the defender’s fraudulent misrepresentation, including £1,160 (cash withdrawals), £9,832 (point-of-sale purchases) and £7,742 (foreign currency). The following is a summary of Sheriff O’Carroll’s judgment.

Following a civil proof at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll has ruled that the defender (Amanda Donaldson) is liable to repay £18,734 to the pursuer (Joanne Murray), as a result of the defender’s fraudulent misrepresentation, including £1,160 (cash withdrawals), £9,832 (point-of-sale purchases) and £7,742 (foreign currency). The following is a summary of Sheriff O’Carroll’s judgment.

In this case, the pursuer claimed that the defender defrauded her of more than £23,000 while the defender was personally employed by the pursuer as a personal assistant. She sought repayment of that sum.

It is relevant to note that the pursuer, who sued in her married name, is a well-known author who has written many books, including the Harry Potter series under the name JK Rowling.

The pursuer claimed that the defender carried out the fraud, by means of fraudulent misrepresentation, in four ways. First, the defender used a business credit card to purchase goods which were for her own use. Second, the defender used a business credit card to withdraw cash for her own use. Third, the defender used the pursuer’s business bank accounts to buy foreign currency which she kept for herself. Fourth, the defender removed Harry Potter merchandise from the pursuer’s Edinburgh office for her own use.

To establish her claim, the pursuer required to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the defender used the business credit card and the pursuer’s bank accounts knowingly or recklessly falsely representing that expenditure as being for the pursuer’s personal business use when in fact that expenditure was for the defender’s own use [116].

The defender accepted that she had no entitlement to use the business credit card or bank accounts for her own benefit. She denied any form of fraud or dishonesty contending that every transaction was for the business use or the personal benefit of the pursuer and it was all authorised. She contended that every foreign currency purchase was authorised and was spent during foreign trips by the pursuer, her family and security staff or was retained by the pursuer or her family with a very limited amount left over. She denied any responsibility for the missing Harry Potter merchandise.

The Court heard evidence at a proof spread over five days which included that of the pursuer herself, her husband and members of her staff. The defender herself also gave evidence as well as her current boss in her new employment. The parties’ legal representatives then lodged written submissions on the evidence and the law which were later considered at an oral hearing [100] to [114].

The judgment

Sheriff O’Carroll concluded that most of the pursuer’s claim was proved and that as a result of the defender’s fraudulent misrepresentation the pursuer had been defrauded of £1,160 (cash withdrawals), £9,832 (point-of-sale purchases) and £7,742 (foreign currency). Those sums are conservative assessments of the sums obtained by the defender’s fraudulent activities. However, as regards the missing Harry Potter merchandise, although the Sheriff accepted that some had gone missing, the evidence did not prove to the requisite standard that there was fraudulent misrepresentation by the defender leading to that loss [140]. The total proven loss to the pursuer resulting from the defender’s fraudulent misrepresentation is therefore £18,734. The defender is liable to repay that sum in full to the pursuer with interest.

Reasons for the judgment

The evidence heard by the Court is summarised in the judgment [4] to [99]. The Sheriff accepted the evidence of the pursuer, her husband and her other witnesses as entirely credible and reliable [118] to [123]. By contrast, the Sheriff did not accept the defender’s evidence as either credible or reliable. He found that her evidence was a conscious fabrication [124], [125].

The Sheriff found it proved on the balance of probabilities that when employed by the pursuer, the defender was capable of persistent brazen dishonesty [131]. More detailed reasons for the Court’s conclusions are further given [132] to [141].

The Sheriff therefore preferred the evidence led by the pursuer which amply justified the Court’s findings in fact and law.

The full judgment is available on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

Note

  • This summary is provided to assist in understanding the Court’s decision. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The full judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document.
  • Numbers given in square brackets above are references to paragraph numbers in the judgment.

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