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Mother escapes jail - this time

PUBLISHED: 14:10 26 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:36 03 March 2010

A MILDENHALL mother has escaped being given a prison sentence, by a judge who said she would not be so lucky next time.

In February, Patricia Nelhams, 31, of Pembroke Close, Mildenhall, was convicted of seven counts of furnishing false instruments, totalling £4,200.

A MILDENHALL mother has escaped being given a prison sentence, by a judge who said she would not be so lucky next time.

In February, Patricia Nelhams, 31, of Pembroke Close, Mildenhall, was convicted of seven counts of furnishing false instruments, totalling £4,200. She was acquitted of further theft offences.

Mitigating at Ipswich Crown Court, Carl Fender said: "She has lost her good character. Mrs Nelhams was at the bottom of the company's hierarchy, and breaches of trust get bigger as the employee's responsibility climbs.

"She was handling £2,000 a week, which is £100,000 over the course of a year, so the potential for her dishonesty was much greater. These offences were not sophisticated, and didn't need a great deal of detection once the investigation had started."

He said Nelhams lost her job in autumn 1999, and it took 15 months for the matter to come to the police's attention, and she was interviewed in early 2001.

Mr Fender said some of the money had been repaid already, and a report showed the risk of her re-offending was negligible.

The court heard that she was living with her estranged husband and three sons aged eight, ten and 12, but the couple planned to sell the house and separate.

Judge Peter Thompson said the offences were breaches of trust, and said: "You exploited the trust of a number of women who were not well off. You were obviously very capable of managing these finances.

"I accept that you were at the lowest rung of the ladder but that didn't mean you didn't exploit that position.

"I am not going to send you to prison but you have come very close to it. These offences were very exploitative both to your employer and other people."

He ordered her to do 140 hours community service, pay compensation of £2,531 and pay £1,000 prosecution costs towards the four-day trial costs –all to be paid within six months.

He added: "These were serious offences committed over quite a long period of time. If there were to be a next time, in my judgement you would be dealt with very much more harshly."


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