Social worker robbed the poor

Posted: March 4, 2011 in Law & Disorder

A senior social worker filled her home with thousands of pounds worth of appliances, toys, games and clothes after fraudulently claiming for the goods on behalf of needy people in the North-east.

IlieJennifer Stephen initially appeared at Peterhead Sheriff Court on January 27, where she denied two charges of fraud against Aberdeenshire Council. She appeared again in court last week where she admitted defrauding the local authority of nearly £9,000.

She led Aberdeenshire Council’s Social Work Department to believe that legitimate case-related expenditure was to be incurred for several items that were never supplied to clients – racking up goods which amounted to £8,885.78 between September 26, 2005 and August 15, 2008.

Stephen, who was employed by Aberdeenshire Council as a social worker and team leader at Peterhead for children and families, was suspended from her senior position in 2008 following an internal investigation. The mother-of-four was sacked from her £37,000-a-year post following an internal investigation in 2009. Three years before she appears in court what was the delay, trying to to find some loophole to get her off.

Over a three-year period, she induced people at the social work department at Peterhead to sign off “financial assistance” forms. These purchase orders were used to obtain goods that should have been for poverty stricken clients of the social work department. She also duped the council into paying for the re-carpeting of her Links Terrace home and van hire to take double beds and mattresses directly to her door.

Procurator fiscal, Sarah O’Gallagher, said Stephen was responsible for 35 such transactions.

The court heard that a transaction made on October 3, 2005, related to a rowing machine purchased for a client which amounted to £783.

On the financial assistance form filled out, 47-year-old Stephen stated that the piece of gym equipment was required for two girls whose mother had been murdered, and whose father had been imprisoned for her murder. How is a rowing machine going to help the two girls, I can’t believe nobody queried that.

She stated that the girls had suffered extreme trauma from this, manifesting itself in an eating disorder, and that some exercise would help. But it was also acknowledged on the form that a public gym would not be useful for the girls to attend, and so gym equipment at home was required.

But the client in question never received the rowing machine, and it was later discovered at Stephen’s property after a search was carried out. Unbelievable!

On another occasion, a £199 tumble dryer was claimed – allegedly for a child who had a skin condition which was said to be difficult to control. It was stated on the expenses form that tumble drying clothes would be beneficial to the child. How would it, whoever signed those two items off should have been suspended too!

Anyway, the family denied the child suffering from a skin condition altogether and also never received the tumble dryer, the court heard.

The social worker even ordered school uniforms from Buchan Embroidery, claiming that they were for under-privileged families – but had them embroidered with the names of her own children.

Stephen also claimed for £2,100 worth of John Lewis vouchers, of which a washing machine, hand-held hoover, sofa, two double beds with mattresses, a variety of children’s toys, including an electronic scooter, and £1,300 worth of clothing, including school clothes and a football strip, was purchased.

Household goods were also among the expenses claimed, as well as a watch and a Wii Fit, and a keyboard complete with a stand.

The majority of these items have since been recovered from Stephen’s home.

All’s well that ends well – Stephens was jailed for 28 months yesterday.

Same old same old

IlieUK Border Agency officers using sniffer dogs have stopped 17 stowaways from trying to sneak into the UK in the back of a refrigerated lorry bound for Neasden, north London.

The group, 13 Afghans, 3 Iranians and a Pakistani, were discovered by agency officers working at the port of Calais in France on Tuesday 22 February.

They were hiding inside a Greek registered vehicle which was carrying a load of frozen feta cheese to an address on the North Circular Road. The temperature inside the trailer was well below freezing.

The stowaways were handed over to French Border Police to try again another night and the vehicle was allowed to continue its journey to London.

Also

IlieUK Border Agency officers using sniffer dogs have stopped two stowaways from sneaking into the UK in the back of a lorry heading to Iver in Buckinghamshire.

Two men from Iran and Iraq were discovered hiding inside a Polish registered vehicle carrying whiteboards to an address on the Ridgeway Industrial Estate on the evening of Tuesday 22 February. As usual the stowaways were handed over to French Border Police, and the vehicle was allowed to continue its journey to Iver.

Do you know

Only one in five people caught carrying a knife is being jailed.

The number of offenders put behind bars fell from almost 1,600 two years ago to a little over 1,000 in the final three months of last year, despite guidelines saying the starting point for the lowest level of knife possession should be 12 weeks in jail.

In all, 5,151 offenders were caught in possession between October and December last year, down from 6,956 in the last quarter of 2008. These included 906 juveniles, compared with 1,528 two years earlier.

But only 20% of people caught with knives or offensive weapons were locked up, compared with 23% in the same period in 2008. A total of 1,012 offenders were jailed in the final quarter of last year, compared with 1,595 in 2008.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council told magistrates in August 2008 that a Court of Appeal judgment made clear they should sentence those convicted of possession at the top end of the range, with a 12-week starting point for the lowest-level offence.

Of those sent to custody, 32% were jailed for six months or more last year, up from 27% two years ago, with the average length of a sentence also increasing to 199 days from 175 days.

Meanwhile, a higher proportion of offenders walked free from court with either suspended or community sentences.

The figures showed the proportion of community sentences handed down for possession rose to 31% from 29%, while the proportion of suspended sentences was also up – from 11% to 13% – but the proportion of cautions handed out fell from 25% to 21%.

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