Bank employee who stole customers’ cash has prison sentence cut following appeal

Lord Menzies
Lord Menzies

A bank employee who stole more than £50,000 from customers’ accounts has had his sentence reduced following an appeal.

Rameez Hamid, who was sentenced to the three years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to embezzling some £51,000, argued that the custodial term was “excessive”.

The Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary ruled that the sentence should be reduced to two years and eight months after hearing that before the appellant was sentenced he had taken steps to repay the money by selling his house, which was a “mitigatory” factor.

‘Breach of trust’

Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull heard that the appellant played a major role with others in obtaining the personal details of customers of the bank where he worked and stole large sums of money from their accounts in a fraudulent scheme lasting over several months, which the sherif described as a “grave breach of trust”.

The court was told that the appellant, who was aged 31 at the date of sentence, married with a young child, and had no previous convictions with a good employment history, claimed that he was put “under pressure” to get involved in this scheme.

He said he did so because of financial difficulties that he was experiencing at that time

The accused pled guilty at first diet and was sentenced at Glasgow Sheriff Court in May 2018 to three years’ imprisonment, that being discounted from a headline sentence of four years to reflect the early plea of guilty.

‘Excessive sentence’

However, on behalf of the appellant, it was argued that the headline sentence of four years was “excessive”.

It was submitted that he had taken steps before sentence to sell his house in order to repay the sums embezzled and the sale would have been completed and repayment effected if the sheriff had deferred sentence for about one week. 

But this was not done and the sale transaction collapsed at that time. 

The court was told that the house was again on the point of being sold although the sale transaction had not yet concluded, but that it was expected that it would conclude and funds would be available later this week.

It was argued that the “mitigatory effect” of what had happened, together with the fact that by the date of the appeal hearing the appellant had served the equivalent of more than 13 months custodial sentence, meant that we should quash the sentence imposed and substitute a community payback order. 

‘Mitigatory effect’

Quashing the original sentence, the appeal judges agreed that the attempted repayment of embezzled monies should be taken into account.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Menzies said: “This was a very serious offence. However, we do accept that the fact that the appellant has intended to take steps to recompense the victim of his crime and has taken steps to implement that intention does have some mitigatory effect.

“Accordingly, we shall quash the sentence imposed by the sheriff of three years imprisonment discounted from four. We shall reduce the headline sentence from four years imprisonment to three years six months imprisonment to reflect the steps that were taken prior to sentence to sell the house to enable restitution to be made. 

“We shall apply the same discount, namely one quarter, as that applied by the sheriff. This results in a sentence (in broad terms) of 32 months imprisonment. So, we shall substitute two years eight months imprisonment for the sentence of three years imprisonment which was imposed.”

The Crown confirmed that, in the event the the appellant did manage to sell his house, it would consent to the sums being paid back to the bank and would no longer proceed with the confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2019

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