Tag Archives: Theft

Alan Crickmore – Court of Appeal refuse permission and BBC get it wrong

BBC

BBC

We çovered the case of Alan Crickmore, the coroner and former solicitor who pleaded guilty to stealing about 2 million pounds from dead clients. When he entered his plea, we predicted (correctly) that he would get hammered, but incorrectly gave a guess of about 5 years.

When he was sentenced, he actually got 8 years. We indicated that we would keep an eye out for an appeal and, on 1st July 2014, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal against sentence. Or at least that’s how the news report reads.

In fact, this was an application for permission to appeal. Openshaw J said that the sentence was ‘just and appropriate’ and refused permission. Mr Crickmore can, and probably will, renew his application to appeal. This means he has an oral hearing before the full court where the court considers again whether he should have permission to appeal. We will have a look if and when this happens.

We originally thought this was a written application (as is common) although someone at the Judiciary very helpfully pointed out that in fact, there was an oral hearing. That said, it was still a permission hearing – not an appeal.

Anyway, the BBC. The headline states “Coroner Alan Crickmore loses appeal to reduce sentence for £2m theft“. For the reasons stated, this is wrong. A better headline would have been “Coroner Alan Crickmore refused permission to appeal sentence for £2m theft“or something like that. Perhaps it is picky…but in law, without detail, we are nowhere.

Rachel Stokes – care home manager jailed for theft

From The Guardian

                       From The Guardian

On 25th April 2014 Rachel Stokes, a 48 year care home manager was jailed for 8 months for stealing from her residents in order to fund her bingo habit. She had siphoned off money (typically £100-200 a time) from seven residents by withdrawing money from their accounts and giving them less than she recorded in the paperwork. The total amount that she took was about £1,000.

The Theft Guidelines would appear to apply to this case. It is theft in breach of trust, and can properly be described as a ‘high breach of trust’. This gives a starting point of 18 weeks and a range of a Community Order up to 12 months in prison.

Here, there was a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity, and there should be full credit for that plea. On that basis, the sentence passed was right at the very top of the range.

Is it too high? I would imagine that most people would think that stealing from such vulnerable people is such a disgraceful breach of trust that the sentence is well deserved. Whilst you could argue that, given that Ms Stokes was of good character and will almost certainly not re-offend, a sentence of 6 or 4 months would probably do the trick, I would doubt that any appeal would be successful. In this case, although the sentence is a severe one, it is hard to say that is is manifestly excessive.

Stealing from a bin and the Vagrancy Act 1824

cpsThe men have been charged with an offence under Vagrancy Act 1824 s 4, namely that they were found in an area, Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, stealing food. In fact, it is said that they were taking food items out of a skip, prior to them presumably being thrown away.

The Guardian has a report of the story here, which is worth a read.

UPDATE: There is a press release from Iceland which makes clear they did not call the police and are seeking clarification as to why the CPS believe it to be in the public interest to prosecute.

UPDATE 2: The CPS have confirmed they have dropped the prosecution. See the press statement for details.

There are a number of issues here, which have been discussed in case law, some of it, recent. These include what does ‘found’ mean, what does ‘unlawful purpose’ mean and when does the unlawful purpose need to exist.

Those wishing to do some further reading may want to look at the following cases:

L v DPP 2007 EWHC 1843 (Admin)

Smith v Chief Superintendent of Woking Police Station (1983) 76 Cr. App. R. 234

Talbot v DPP [2000] 1 W.L.R. 1102

One interesting point that appears to arise from the Smith case is that the unlawful purpose must be criminal, and not merely a wrongful act such as a tort (e.g. trespass). So consider the situation where the unlawful (criminal) purpose is said to be theft.

Does that then require an evaluation of the offence of theft?

The unlawful purpose of committing theft

Theft Act 1968 s 1 defines theft as ‘dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it’. Section 7 sets out the maximum sentence of 7 years for a person convicted of theft.

Sections 2 to 6 define the elements of the offence. All five elements must be proven in order for the offence to be ‘made out’. The only one we are really concerned with is the first.

Dishonestly’

 A person is not dishonest (for the purposes of theft) if he appropriates the property:

(a) in the belief that he has in law the right to deprive the other of it, on behalf of himself or of a third person; or

(b) in the belief that he would have the other’s consent if the other knew of the appropriation and the circumstances of it; or

(c) in the belief that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.

So there would be problems showing that the ‘thief’ did not believe that they had the consent of either the council responsible for emptying the bin or the supermarket who placed the property into the bin.

So if it cannot be shown that the individuals were in the area specified with the intention of committing a theft (because they believed they had the consent of the owner) then it would appear that they are not guilty of an offence at all.

CPS policy

 A final thought.

The Full Code Test, emlployed by the CPS when deciding whether to charge someone is as follows.

The evidential stage: Prosecutors must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each suspect on each charge.

The public interest stage: In every case where there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, prosecutors must go on to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

Perhaps it is necessary to add a third limb to this test – the idiot test: ‘could someone legitimately call me an idiot for pursuing this prosecution?’ It might save a few quid (and keep the naked rambler out of jail too).

Coroner and solicitor Alan Crickmore gets 8 years for ‘theft from the dead’

Taken from BBC News

Taken from BBC News

On 17th October 2013 Alan Crickmore, a coroner (a Judge who is responsible for ascertaining the cause and circumstances of a death, as well as, for historic reasons, dealing with treasure trove) pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to 24 counts of fraud. He was released on bail until the 28th November when he was sentenced.

After the conviction, Dan predicted that Crickmore would get “hammered”, suggesting a sentence of 6 years. On 28 November, Crickmore was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.

Facts

Crickmore stole money from clients and the estates of deceased clients. The total value of the thefts was about £2 million.

The BBC reported that the police claimed Crickmore had spent £400,000 on his credit card since 2005, including £45,000 on restaurants, £74,000 on supermarket bills, £33,000 on holidays, and £92,000 of cash withdrawals.

There was a two-year investigation into Crickmore’s solictiors firm which resulted in the closure of the firm. Thereafter however, Crickmore continued to draw a £60,000 salary from the council for sitting as a coroner, even though he was suspended.

One of the counts represented the theft of almost £900,000 from the estate of a deceased man.

Sentencing

The maximum sentence is 10 years.

Crickmore received 8 years. The discount given for pleading guilty is not clear, however there will have been some reduction. That places the starting point towards 10 years, which, even using the fraud guidelines (which tend to have higher sentences than the theft guideline, where offences ‘fit’ into both) is high. This is so, even when taking account of the (massive) breach of trust.

An appeal may well be mounted, given that starting at around 10 years,

The prosecution stated they would be seeking confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to recover about £800,000. This is presumably because although Crickmore benefitted to the tune over almost £2m, he only has £800,000 available to confiscate (why make an order which he cannot pay?).

We’ll keep an eye out for an appeal.

Policeman forges will of 94yo widow to make him main beneficiary

jon webbImage from Daily Mail

Jon Webb, 45, a policeman, pleaded to five counts of theft, five counts of fraud and one of forgery.

He was called to the victim’s home after she had had a fall. She was aged 94 and widowed. He befriended her and volunteered to visit her in hospital. He visited her on more than 30 occasions.

When she had recovered from her fall, the Daily Mail reported that he ‘gained access to her bank accounts, set up internet banking and applied for a credit card. He closed down a pension account so he could access her life savings.’

He also typed a false will on the victim’s typewriter (the forgery) making him the main beneficiary of her (approximate) £400,000 estate. Additionally, he had stolen a box of war medals (theft)

The prosecutor said: ‘She does not fully understand why the defendant has done this to her. It is very hard for her now to trust anyone.

‘The defendant preyed upon her vulnerability, she trusted him as a friend. She trusted the defendant because he was a policeman and said it is his job to look after people like her.’

Webb’s downfall came as a result of suspicion that he was responsible for another offence – the theft of £1,000 and $500 which had been recovered after a burglary.

It was reported that he resigned from the police in May 2013 after a 20-year career in the force.

Sentence

Sentencing, Judge Guy Kearl QC said: ‘You have brought disgrace upon yourself and upon the police service for whom you served many years and you have undermined the public confidence in our police service.

‘I am satisfied once you had seen her [the victim] you had selected her as your prey and then you committed sophisticated and planned acts of fraud and theft on a frail and confused elderly lady.’

He was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. He will serve 3 years in custody and 3 years on licence.

It is likely that the judge considered the Fraud guidelines, for the main offences of fraud. The theft guideline may also have been of some assistance for the other offences.

There may well have been consecutive sentences for some offences, where for example they were not a part of the same set of offending (e.g. the theft of the £1,000 and $500 recovered from a burglary). What is important however is whether the overall total adequately reflects the offending.

Assuming there was an early guilty plea, the judge started at 9 years, or perhaps slightly more. The aggravating features would have been most certainly the high degree of breach of trust and the targeting of a vulnerable victim. It also appears that this was planned and somewhat sophisticated in its execution.

There is an argument to say that the loss of Webb’s career in the police force should make for some mitigation (there have been cases in the past where courts have reduced sentences on the basis that a consequence of the conviction has been that the defendant would lose their professional career) however by starting at 9 years, it appears such a proposition, if made, had little impact on this judge.

Stealing from your employer? Don’t call yourself “mybossisanumpty” and sell your wares on Ebay

Who could resist a story about a thieving employee who got caught? Well, the Daily Mail and UKCriminalLawBlog certainly couldn’t. Enter “mybossisanumpty”. A surprising Ebay name you might think, particularly if the owner of said name is selling off goods allegedly to have been stolen from his employer.

This item, sold on eBay, is one of several which an employee stole from hardware retailer Norman Precision

Investigations are still ongoing but we’re told that a number of stolen items belonging to hardware retailer Norman Precision have been found being sold on Ebay by mybossisanumpty.

An officer dealing with the investigation is purported to have confirmed that on 16th August a 54 year-old man from Stroud was arrested on suspicion of theft and has been bailed until 4th October pending further enquiries.

It’s said that the sales have been ongoing for over two years, with mybossisanumpty receiving excellent feedback from buyers.

If the matter does get to Court we’ll update this post. In the meantime; you have been warned. This is how not to steal from your employer.

The Daily Mail article is here. Unfortunately there are no comments from angry readers as of yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
The author of this post is self-employed and admits regularly stealing pens from her home study to use in her kitchen. She is yet to progress to Ebay selling.

It’s a fox, honest gov’ – Three sentenced for taking a badger

Badger

Bodger (left) and badger (right) (Tumbler)

A bit of an unusual one at first glance, three men were convicted of offences under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. The Act states:

1Taking, injuring or killing badgers.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if, except as permitted by or under this Act, he wilfully kills, injures or takes, or attempts to kill, injure or take, a badger.

The three men, Shaun Dixon, 25, Anthony Dowell, 24, and Nathan Moorhead, 18, were seen putting live badger in the back of a van.

There is an exception to the offence under section 1(1) where the defendant is able to show that his action – taking the badger in this case – was necessary for the purpose of preventing serious damage to land, crops, poultry or any other form of property. That does not appear to have been an issue here.

The maximum sentence is 6 months and/or a £5,000 fine.

Dixon and Dowell received 140-day sentences, Moorhead received a 60-day sentence (presumably because of his age).

Appeal

Why are we hearing about this? Well they appealed against their conviction (and sentence it seems). Before two lay magistrates and a Crown Court judge, the three men sought to show that the animal they put into the back of their van was in fact a fox and not a badger. This would have resulted in their convictions being overturned.

The Judge reportedly told the three that he and the two magistrates simply did not believe their story. Their convictions would stand.

Regarding their sentence, the Judge reportedly said that the custodial terms were inappropriate and that they would be sentenced on 19 July at which point they would probably be given community orders.

It is presumed that they were granted bail following their conviction and sentence and so haven’t spent any time in custody.

The story behind the stolen £1.2m violin – R v Maughan

violin

Picture from BBC News.

BBC News reported yesterday that a violin stolen from Euston train station in 2010 has allegedly been found in Bulgaria.

On the face of it, it is not a particularly interesting story…however when the violin was a Stradivarius made in 1696 worth £1.2m the story has a little more ‘bite’.

Ms Kym, a Korean born musician who has played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was at Euston train station in London, with her boyfriend. Sat in a cafe, they were using their computers. Ms Kym put her violin down by her side.

Maughan and two others entered the cafe, and sat next to and opposite Ms Kym. They proceeded to take the violin, along with two bows worth £65,000, and make their exit from the cafe.

To add insult to injury, the violin, worth around £1.2m was only insured for its purchase price of £750,000.

Maughan and the others had then gone to an Internet cafe, searched ‘Stradivarius’ and ‘1698’. They entered into a discussion with a man who  was sat next to them who was also researching things, and an attempt was made to sell the violin and bows to him for £100.

The violin stayed at the address of one of the men for around a week. A national appeal was launched on Crimewatch but the violin was never found.

Maughan was eventually caught. He had 59 previous offences, including a great number for theft and kindred offences. He also used 40 different aliases during his criminal career.

He pleaded guilty to theft and received 4½ years. He appealed. It was accepted that it was not a targeted theft.

The court said: “...despite the enormous value and the devastating effect that this theft had on the life of Ms Kym, it is our view that the sentence is too high and that perhaps insufficient regard was given to the fact of the plea and the personal mitigation.”

The sentence was reduced to 3½ years.

As reported by the BBC, Bulgarian officials believe they may have found the rare violin. Fingers crossed…

The appeal judgment can be seen below:

R v John Maughan 2012 EWCA Crim 692

Lord Justice Pitchford Mrs Justice Cox DBE The Common Serjeant His Honour Judge Barker QC

The Common Serjeant:

1 John Maughan is now 30 years of age. He appeared on 2nd March of 2011 at the Crown Court sitting at Blackfriars and before His Honour Judge Pillay when he pleaded guilty to a single count of theft. On 8th April, the next month, he appeared for sentence and was given four and a half years. He appears now by leave of the single judge, who in addition ordered that a psychiatric report as to his current mental state and the effects of imprisonment be placed before this court for our consideration.

2 Additionally at the Crown Court at Blackfriars there appeared two brothers, one was [Md], aged 16, the other was [Td], aged 14. They both pleaded guilty to the same count. [Md] was sentenced to a ten-month detention and training order. [Td] was remitted to the youth court for sentence and we are not aware of what happened to him.

3 The unusual facts of this case are these. On 29th November 2010 a world famous violinist, Ms Kym, was sitting with her boyfriend in a cafe on Euston Station. She and he were interested in their computers and phones, hardly surprisingly, and she placed by her side her Stradivarius violin in its case, which also contained two bows. The violin was worth in the region of £1.2 million, and it was insured for its purchase price of £750,000. The two bows combined were said to be worth around £65,000.

4 The trio entered the sandwich bar. [Td], the youngest, went up to the counter, almost certainly to distract the staff. Mr Maughan, the appellant, sat next to Ms Kym and the other defendant, [Md], sat opposite. The appellant then stole the violin case and all three left swiftly. It took but a minute or two for Ms Kym to realise that the case had gone. She went straight to the counter and an attempt was made to search for it, but of course it had long since disappeared. Subsequent investigation of the Cctv showed the appellant and his co-defendants leaving the station with the case.

5 It turned out that the next day all three had gone to an internet cafe in the Tottenham Court Road with the violin and had researched the word “Stradivarius” and the date 1698, which was apparent from the material in the case. They then entered into a discussion with another person sitting next to them who was researching things for himself and an attempt was made to sell him the violin for £100. He refused the offer, saying that his daughter already had a recorder.

6 The matter was then placed on Crimewatch on national television and the appellant’s distinctive appearance, he is particularly short, was recognised by a number of police officers and prison officers who have come across him in the past. He was subsequently arrested on 21st November, so some four weeks after the theft. He admitted the theft but said he thought that they were stealing a computer. It is right that he gave the names and the address at which the two co-defendants lived, which led to their arrest. He declined to say anything else.

7 It appears to be common ground that the violin stayed at the address of [Td] and [Md] for about a week. They later said that it disappeared after a burglary which took place after the Crimewatch programme had appeared on television.

8 I then turn to the background of Mr Maughan. He has 59 previous offences, including a great number for theft and kindred offences. Additionally, he has used something like 40 different aliases during his criminal career.

9 In his sentencing remarks the learned judge said that although this was an opportunist theft, at least by the time that they left the internet cafe they must have known that they had a very valuable instrument. He did give credit for an early plea but he found that the Cctv footage was compelling. He noted that the violin represented Ms Kym’s life savings, it had gone and the loss would remain with her for a very long time. He observed that the appellant had a very long record and had only recently been released from prison. In his view the appellant was undoubtedly the promoter and the instigator and may well have corrupted his younger co-accused. He concluded by saying that the appellant was a recidivist and the time had come when the public should be given some respite.

10 Mr Rudston, in his grounds of appeal, indicated that insufficient regard had been given for personal mitigation. His point before us today is that there is, in his words, “insufficient headroom” for worse examples of theft, the maximum for this offence being one of seven years’ imprisonment. He also adds that the applicant has apparently made efforts in order to recover the violin.

11 We have not been assisted by any cases which are even remotely similar. The nearest is R v Hakimzadeh [2010] 1 Cr App R (S) , at page 10. It can be dealt with in this way. A distinguished scholar and an expert on cultural relations stole a number of plates from books and books from two leading libraries in this country. In that case all the missing pages from the books were recovered. We agree in fact with the observations of Blake J in the course of the judgment of this court in that case where he said that this kind of offending, where cultural property is concerned, is very different from offending where seriousness can only be gauged by the value on the open market of the items where they can be readily replaced and purchased. That case, however, on any view was an exceptional case and dealt with its own unique facts, and in our view this case must be viewed in the same way, it is exceptional and it does have its own unique facts.

12 We have been assisted by the reports which were requested by the learned single judge. We have read the psychiatric report prepared by Dr Agarwal which is dated 18th February. It points out that the appellant was brought up in a travelling community, he has no formal education, he has never been employed and he began to drink regularly and abuse Class A drugs when he was about 13 or 14. It appears that in recent times his daily routine has been to wander the streets to seek opportunities to steal in order to fund his food and drug requirements. In the view of the psychiatrist the impact of prison had not been peculiarly different in his case or in excess to that of many people who find themselves in the same predicament. We have also been provided with a report from his supervisor at Her Majesty’s Prison Everthorpe, where it is noted that the appellant has shown an improvement in his behaviour compared with previous establishments, although he has picked up five negative behaviour warnings.

13 We have listened carefully to everything that counsel has advanced to us, but the tragedy of the present case is that although this was not a targetted theft, the fact that this was an item of enormous value was apparent to the group within 24 hours and there has been no help as to the onward journey of that violin, and of course there is no clue as to its present whereabouts. Additionally, the appellant has a dismal record of dishonesty. The only mitigation of any substance is the early plea. The only issue is whether the necessary deterrent sentence was manifestly excessive, and of course counsel accepts that the judge in this unusual case was entitled to go outside the ordinary theft guidelines.

14 We have given this matter anxious consideration and, despite the enormous value and the devastating effect that this theft had on the life of Ms Kym, it is our view that the sentence is too high and that perhaps insufficient regard was given to the fact of the plea and the personal mitigation. In our judgment, the appropriate sentence in all the circumstances should be one of three and a half years. The appeal succeeds, the original sentence will be quashed and a term of three and a half years will be substituted. To that extent the appeal is allowed. Any time that he spent in custody of course will count in relation to the new sentence.