Darroux v The Crown, Court of Appeal - Criminal Division, May 04, 2018, [2018] EWCA Crim 1009

Resolution Date:May 04, 2018
Issuing Organization:Criminal Division
Actores:Darroux v The Crown
 
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Case No: 2016/03297/B1

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWCA Crim 1009

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM CROWN COURT AT WOOD GREEN

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 04/05/2018

Before:

LORD JUSTICE DAVIS

MR JUSTICE KING

and

MRS JUSTICE CHEEMA-GRUBB DBE

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Between:

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Laurie-Anne Power for the Appellant

Christiaan Moll for the Respondent

Hearing date: 13 April 2018

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JudgmentLord Justice Davis:

Introduction

  1. In Blackstone's Criminal Practice (18th ed.) at paragraph B4.48 the following is stated: ``Where an alleged theft involves a thing in action such as the credit balance in V's bank account, or the right to payment on a cheque, it can sometimes be particularly difficult to identify the crucial act of appropriation, even where it seems clear that D has dishonestly enriched himself at V's expense. In most such cases, the prosecution would be well advised to use charges other than theft...''

  2. These are wise words. But unfortunately this was not a course followed in this case. In circumstances where the charges could readily and appropriately have been framed by reference to s. 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 (this case being virtually a paradigm example of fraud by false representation within the ambit of s. 2 of that Act) the charges were all framed by reference to s. 1 of the Theft Act 1968.

  3. The consequence has been, in the light of the appellant's conviction, an appeal to this court of a kind which much engaged the courts (and academic commentators) in years gone by: a consequence which the Fraud Act 2006 had in truth been designed to counter.

  4. The potential legal difficulty arising had not been identified below, either by trial counsel or trial judge. In fact it was only first identified by the Criminal Appeal Office, the appellant having lodged grounds of appeal of her own composition raising entirely unrelated points (which are not now pursued). In granting leave - ``without, I confess, the slightest degree of enthusiasm'', as he put it - the single judge observed that it was no answer to say that no one took the point below. That, in the circumstances of this case, is correct. If the case and evidence presented at trial could not in law sustain counts of theft, then convictions on such counts cannot be regarded as safe.

  5. The appellant, Pamela Darroux, was represented before us by Ms Power. The respondent Crown was represented before us by Mr Moll. Ms Power had not appeared at the trial below. Mr Moll had.

    Background Facts

  6. The background facts, in summary, are these.

  7. The appellant was from 2 November 2002 until 1 April 2014 employed as a manager by a charity known as the Sunridge Court Housing Association. She was a trusted and senior employee, managing the residential care home for elderly people operated by the Housing Association in Golders Green. She had responsibility for the general running of the home. Her responsibilities extended to the pay-roll of all employed staff, including herself.

  8. The appellant was contracted to work from Monday to Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm. It was an agreed term that when she did overtime, or covered for other members of staff, she was entitled to claim additional payment. She was also entitled to claim payment in lieu of holiday not taken.

  9. So far as the staff were concerned it was the responsibility of the appellant, among other things, to check their rotas, claims for overtime and on-call work, holiday entitlements and so on. However, in her own case the arrangement initially was that such claims by her should be approved by the chair or committee of the Board of Trustees of the Housing Association.

  10. It seems that the practice of the appellant throughout the period of her employment was to fill in the relevant forms by hand. There were standard Annual Holiday Requests forms and standard forms for overtime and on-call claims.

  11. Once the relevant claims were approved the forms would be sent on a monthly basis by the appellant, apparently by fax, to a company called PCS Limited, whose services the Housing Association had retained and who, in effect, provided pay-roll services. Perhaps because of the course which the proceedings took at the trial below, the evidence relating to that aspect was limited. At all events, it appears that on receipt of the relevant forms PCS would make the necessary computations for each employee; arrange for the appropriate deductions, with a view to accounting to the Revenue, in respect of PAYE and National Insurance contributions; prepare and send to each employee, including the appellant, the relevant monthly Pay Advice (which would include recording payment for hours worked in excess of the basic contracted amount); and arrange for the payment by bank transfer to each such employee accordingly.

  12. So far as this last aspect was concerned, the evidence again was limited. As we gather, PCS had some form of mandate from the Housing Association, permitting it in effect to operate the relevant bank account of the Housing Association maintained at Barclays Bank. It is to be assumed that PCS did so by electronic instruction. The sums in question would then be paid out of the Housing Association's account via BACS and the corresponding amount would then appear as a credit in each individual employee's designated bank account.

  13. Until 2011 the chairman of the Board of Trustees was Brian Levy. The appellant would place her own pay-roll details before Mr Levy for his approval. He was to say in evidence that he was always satisfied with the overtime claims which she put in, as also with any holiday payment claims: such queries as he occasionally raised were answered to his satisfaction. He also said that he considered her to work hard and conscientiously. As put by the trial judge in the summing-up, Mr Levy ``didn't say a word against Mrs Darroux''.

  14. In 2011 Linda Stone took over as chair of the Board of Trustees. Ms Stone, as she had made clear before she agreed to take on the role of chair, did not involve herself in the day-to-day financial details of the Housing Association; and she did not follow the system of reviewing the appellant's monthly pay claims which had been adopted by Mr Levy. Accordingly she did not herself check or approve the monthly pay and overtime sheets; although she did review (or was intended to review) the Annual Holiday Request forms and did counter-sign at least some of them - how many, became an issue at trial.

  15. In 2013 there was an outbreak of Legionella at the home. It is not now said that this was by reason of any neglect on the part of the appellant. But at all events a report from the Care Quality Commission resulted. This report highlighted various administrative shortcomings within the Housing Association's operations. The appellant was thereafter given notice of dismissal. Her internal appeal was unsuccessful and her employment was terminated on 1 April 2014. Thereafter she made a claim at the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal. Her claim also included an allegation of racial discrimination. An offer of settlement in the sum of £5,000 was rejected by her. Thereafter, the employment proceedings appear to have been overtaken by what became criminal proceedings.

  16. By reason of the shortcomings noted as a result of the report of the Care Quality Commission Ms Stone requested Rachael Barkoff, the Executive Director of the Housing Association, to undertake an audit of the financial position, including payroll payments. The upshot of this was to result in a claim by the Housing Association that the appellant had defrauded the charity by submitting falsely inflated overtime/on call claims and claims in lieu of holiday entitlement. In due course the total amount said to be involved was quantified at £49,465 for the period between January 2011 and February 2014.

  17. On 15 July 2014 the appellant was arrested and interviewed. She was legally represented. She made no comment to all questions asked. Her case at trial was that there had been no dishonest submission of claims and that she had been entitled to all of the payments made to her. It was, among other things, also suggested that the allegations of the Housing Association had been prompted by the claim made in the Employment Tribunal by the appellant.

  18. The appellant was of previous good character.

    The Indictment...

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