Bookkeeper spared second jail spell for stealing from employer

Ipswich Crown Court

Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich woman has been spared another spell behind bars for stealing thousands of pounds from her employer for the second time.

Ashley Mercury appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on Thursday to be sentenced for fraud by abuse of position.

The 55-year-old had previously admitted the offence at a hearing before magistrates on October 16.

Mercury, of Clarkson Street, Ipswich, gained £11,934 by dishonestly abusing her position as finance manager of automotive parts company Interex Ltd, in Needham Market, between April 22, 2018 and March 28, 2019.

Mercury was jailed for 28 months in August 2019 for abusing a position of trust and disguising criminal property as finance manager of Ipswich-based First Strokes, which offered weekly swimming tuition to children.

Between April 2016 and January 2018, then named Julie Jenkins, she deposited £32,145 into her own bank account in 57 unauthorised payments disguised in the company's computer accounting system.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how Mercury fraudulently refunded her own bank account for 18 non-existent orders worth £10,276 while working for Interex.

On a further seven occasions, she funded car repairs worth £1,300 on the company account. 

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Ed Renvoize, mitigating, said Mercury was interviewed by police in March last year, while approaching the end of her jail term and months after the latest offence was reported.

In an interview, Mercury admitted the offence and told police she had used the money to repay debts.

He added: "There has been a very substantial delay, which meant the defendant served a sentence without being interviewed until coming close to her release date, at which point she made full admissions."

Mr Renvoize said Mercury's offending could be realistically viewed as one continuous enterprise, caused by a very particular set of circumstances, which led a woman of hitherto impeccable character to start dipping into the accounts.

"Because that set of circumstances will not arise again, in my submission, the court is in a position to draw back from an immediate sentence of imprisonment," he added.

Recorder Jeremy Benson said Mercury seemed to have made significant progress in trying to rebuild her life, and that, given all the circumstances, it would not be right to send her immediately back to jail.

Mercury was handed a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 150 hours of unpaid work and 25 days' rehabilitation activity requirement. 

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