Providing our clients with legal defence
in the UK for over four decades
When an employer accuses an employee for theft (sometimes called embezzlement), the effect on the employee’s life can be disastrous. Just an accusation can obviously result in the loss of the employee’s job, but also mean that the employee has to suffer a long criminal investigation and court case. On top of this, the possibility of a custodial sentence means that the life of a person accused can be made almost unbearable until court proceedings are over.
Most people accused of stealing from their employers do not have previous convictions, and have more than just their liberty to lose if convicted. They often stand to lose their reputation. With this in mind, we have a special section dealing with employee theft cases. Our recent experience in dealing with these cases includes representation of an employee accused of the theft of tens of thousands of pounds from a “Big 4” London accountancy firm. We also recently represented an employee of a major high street bank accused of the theft of £150,000.
For further information on offences against employers, please see the case study below, and then our guide to the offence and strategy in dealing with these cases.
Our client was a flight attendant with a major UK based International Airline. When her employer decided to remove her from employment, they also conducted a flawed internal investigation into her, and later informed the Police, having already sacked her.
The police subsequently charged her with the theft of numerous items from her workplace, namely duty free products. This case was immediately published in the national press, and our client faced not only a possible prison sentence if convicted, but also the loss of her career and any future career prospects.
We took a view at an early stage that the key to success in this case would be understanding and assessing the complex money and goods systems involved in duty-free in-flight goods shopping, and relating that to the training and checking of staff in the airline’s systems and protocols.
After an intensive four months of preparation of the case, we were able to show at trial that the management systems of the airline were badly organised, monitoring systems were flawed, and that the internal investigation into our client had been biased against her from the outset.
After the jury had reached their verdict, the judge made a point of indicating to the prosecution that the case should never have reached court.
Charges of obtaining money or goods illegally as an employee are often brought under the Fraud Act 2006. Part of the reason for the introduction of this law was to close gaps in the law caused by new types of theft involving technology which did not exist when the previous fraud offences were introduced. Theft offences are often prosecuted under the Theft Act 1968.
To show theft, and to make out most fraud offences the prosecution must show that the defendant has been dishonest. In cases where the defendant thought that he or she had a right to the property he or she was taking, a prosecution will usually fail.
To determine whether theft can be shown, the whole systems of the company involved need to be analysed. Any training manuals need to be requested from the employer, and any information relating to that company’s procedures and common practices must be given to the defence by the prosecution. Where this does not happen, an application should be made to the court for the judge to order the prosecution and police to comply.
Records of all transactions have to be requested, both ones which the prosecution say are illegal, and also ones which are apparently innocent. Where necessary, the trail of all money and/or goods has to be tracked. This may need the assistance of a forensic accountant. This is an accountant who has expertise in dealing specifically in criminal cases.
In theft from employer cases, a custodial sentence is always a possibility if the defendant is convicted. The fact that the defendant is in a position of trust means that the offence is especially frowned upon by courts. If the theft has caused the company financial difficulties or has had a negative effect on other employees, then this increases the possibility and potential length of a prison sentence. Much can be done to try to prevent this, but the best way of dealing with a theft from employer case is, where possible, to fight it.
In theft from employer cases, the importance of spending time going through all of the prosecution evidence, and also building a defence case cannot be overstated. It is often only by providing a thorough pro-active defence that a prosecution for theft from an employer can be foiled.
If you have been accused of theft from your employer, we recommend getting in contact with both an Employment Lawyer and a Criminal Lawyer. We are available to discuss this with no-obligation and in confidence.
If you would like to speak to one of our criminal solicitors regarding theft from an employer, please contact us on freephone 0808 155 4870 and ask to speak to a criminal defence lawyer in our London, Manchester, Salford or Birmingham offices.
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