Former Festival boss hit with curfew over £220k theft

Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: TSPL
Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: TSPL

A former financial manager of the Fringe Society who embezzled more than £220,000 from her employer has been ordered not to leave her house at night.

Fifty-six year old Lynn Taylor had previously pleaded guilty to embezzling £220,331.12 from the Society between June 1, 2008, and March 13, 2015. Sentence had been deferred for reports.

Taylor started work with the Society as a Chartered Accountant in 1994.

In January, 2015, arrangements were being made for a new company pension scheme.

Taylor was asked on several occasions for details of the existing pensions between November 2014 and January 2015.

When this was not forthcoming, investigations showed that employer contribution payments were being made directly into Taylor’s personal bank account.

Taylor was unable to explain how this had happened but voiced concern that she might have overpaid herself.

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She was unable to give an exact figure, and said that she had been stressed.

When interviewed by the police, Taylor told them: “I am not going to deny something I did.

“It has totally destroyed my life and I am never going to work again”.

She told the police she really did not know how much she had taken.

The court was told she had repaid all the money and an extra £40,000 to meet the costs of the investigation.

John Scullion QC, appearing for Taylor, said the money had come from the sale of the family home in Edinburgh. Taylor and her husband had gone to Portugal when he retired, but only rented a house there and had returned to Edinburgh.

She suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the deaths of family members in 2002-2003.

She had, he pointed out, accepted responsibility at the first interview with her employers and when questioned by the police in 2016 had instructed solicitors to resolve the case.

Taylor, he said, had done everything possible to make amends and he added: “In my experience it is highly unusual for someone to pay back more than what had been taken.”

Sheriff Frank Crowe said he noted what Mr Scullion had said about Taylor being badly affected by the death of her brother and other close family members, but he added: “It does appear much of the money embezzled was used by you in the owning of horses and participating in show jumping activities.”

He said he took into account her lack of previous convictions, the early plea of guilty and early and full repayment of the money.

However, he said: “On the other hand this was a gross breach of trust, deliberately committed on many occasions over a significant period of time to indulge in an expensive hobby at the expense of your employers, who are a charity responsible for running a festival with a huge international reputation.”

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Sheriff Crowe said he accepted what Mr Scullion said about it being an exceptional case which would normally result in an immediate custodial sentence.

But under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, a sentence of imprisonment should not be passed on an adult offender unless the court considered there was no other method of dealing with the case.

“It is clear you are at low risk of re-offending “ he said. “And accordingly I have decided, after much thought, to impose a non-custodial sentence.”

He placed Taylor on an eight-month Restriction of Liberty Order confining her to her house between 9pm to 6am, and ordered her to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work under a 12-month Community Payback Order.

Mr Scullion said his client was at a loss to explain her behaviour over the years.

She had, he said, been interested in horses and show-jumping and had overspent significantly.

She had psychological problems with post traumatic stress. She had sold the house she jointly owned with her husband and was now living in temporary accommodation in Scotland.

Sheriff Crowe deferred sentence until next month for a psychologist’s report, telling Taylor: “You have admitted a very serious breach of trust involving a six figure sum, used for your own benefit and pleasure and taking money from a charity is something the court takes very seriously.”