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HMA v Katherine Vaughan


Dec 1, 2020

At the High Court in Edinburgh today Lord Beckett sentenced Katherine Vaughan to 3 years and 9 months imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to a charge of embezzlement carried out at premises in Aberdeen occupied by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

 On sentencing, Lord Beckett made the following statement in court:

“Ms Vaughan.

I take account of everything said in mitigation on your behalf, the terms of the narrative and the contents of the reports. It is in your favour that you are a first offender of previously good character. I do not consider that the protection of a public from further harm from you is a factor in this case. Being in prison will be hard for both you and your family. You are lucky to have supportive parents. You have shown insight into the effect of what you did and expressed remorse. You have responded to your situation in prison in a constructive way. You pled guilty without a trial being fixed and I will make allowance for that.

I have learned of the difficulties which you have had in your life which may have led to your suffering a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder and you do suffer from depression. Dr Bett considers that your mental disorders and circumstances played a part in your offending and I take account of that.

However, you will understand that the court must take a serious view of what you did. You worked for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service whose functions include the prosecution of crime. In order to do that, it is entrusted by the police with evidence which has been seized during criminal investigations. The preservation of such evidence is necessary to prove cases in court and that is why it is kept secure. It was your job to keep it secure, but over the course of almost 9 years you embezzled the items referred to in the charge. Whilst many of these things could have little or no use to you, you embezzled £91,832.82 of which £90,484.98 remains unaccounted for.

Items taken, including a prohibited weapon, 1.7kg of diamorphine and 2.4kg of cocaine, which the police had taken off the streets and made secure, found themselves in the insecure location of your home. Whilst the court has heard that what you did has not actually impeded criminal prosecutions so far and it is possible that it may not do so, it plainly had that potential.  This represents a quite extraordinary breach of trust.

Given the gravity of this crime, there is no suitable alternative to imprisonment. I consider it necessary to punish you and to seek to deter persons, as you were, in such a position of trust. As your case shows, such a crime was surprisingly easy for you to accomplish and went undetected for many years. The court must mark the gravity of this crime and condemn such conduct.

Whilst you have pled guilty early, it was still about 9 months after you appeared in court before the plea was resolved between your lawyer and the Crown and this is not a case in which the witnesses would have had anxiety about giving evidence. Exercising my judgment, I will reduce sentence by one quarter for your plea of guilty.

Such conduct as yours merits a very substantial sentence of imprisonment, but taking account of the mitigating circumstances, and in particular given what I have learned of your mental health and how it seems to have had some part to play in your offending, which bears to some extent on your degree of responsibility, I will significantly moderate sentence.

Had you not pled guilty, you would have been sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years. As it is, you will be sentenced to imprisonment for 3 years and 9 months, backdated to 30 September 2020 when you were remanded in custody.”

1 December 2020