Sen­tence de­ferred on ex­ec­u­tive

The Oban Times - - News -

A FOR­MER fish­ing ex­ec­u­tive who stole from his Lochaber em­ployer was told the mat­ter is ‘in his hands’ if he wants to avoid se­ri­ous pun­ish­ment.

John Hermse from Ar­gus Lodge, Wards Road, El­gin, pleaded guilty to tak­ing £1,116.09 which be­longed to Mal­laig and North West Fish­er­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion (MNFWA).

The 59-year-old had pre­vi­ously pleaded not guilty to em­bez­zling around £7,000 but ad­mit­ted theft of the lesser amount at Fort Wil­liam Sher­iff Court on Mon­day (Au­gust 15).

The court heard Hermse was ini­tially em­ployed as MNFWA sec­re­tary on a part-time ba­sis and that some time later his job ti­tle changed to chief ex­ec­u­tive.

As part of his em­ploy­ment, Hermse was given a com­pany credit card to use for his own ex­penses, in­clud­ing travel costs to help carry out his day-to-day tasks.

The wrong­do­ing in ques­tion took place be­tween April 29 2010 and Oc­to­ber 5 2013 dur­ing which time Hermse used the com­pany card to make two per­sonal trans­ac­tions.

Sher­iff Sukhwinder Gill out­lined to the court that one trans­ac­tion amounted to £148.49 from Tool­sta­tion for tools in­clud­ing pliers and side cut­ters.

A sec­ond pay­ment of £967.20 was for the re­newal of a patent for prawn boxes which Fis­cal Ross Carvel de­scribed as be­ing ‘plainly not for the ben­e­fit of his [Hermse] work’.

Dur­ing the hear­ing it was also ex­plained Mr Hermse earned a salary of around £38,000 from MNFWA.

At the same time he worked for a scal­lop as­so­ci­a­tion, re­ceiv­ing a fur­ther £12,000.

De­spite be­ing la­belled as a part-time role, Ad­vo­cate Barry Smith told the court Hermse would of­ten end up work­ing 30 hours a week, in­clud­ing evenings and week­ends.

He de­scribed Hermse’s role as oner­ous and ex­tremely stress­ful. There was an ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant on hand but oth­er­wise Hermse ‘ was charged with run­ning al­most all as­pects of the busi­ness’.

Mr Smith added: ‘ He fur­ther tells me he was given lim­ited sup­port by the as­so­ci­a­tion and at times was trav­el­ling up to 30,000 miles per an­num.’

Mr Smith said Hermse had also had to deal with the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of £80,000 of as­so­ci­a­tion funds by a for­mer chair­man. He added: ‘It is help­ful for the court to un­der­stand the some­what lax or ca­sual na­ture of the financial ar­range­ments with the as­so­ci­a­tion. He tells me it would be usual for him to use his own funds for as­so­ci­a­tion mat­ters and re­cover the funds at the end of the month.’

The court heard work pres­sures com­bined with the ill-health of his wife who suf­fered from epilepsy and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing eye sight among other ail­ments be­gan to take its toll on Hermse and around this time the cou­ple moved to Mo­ray.

Mr Smith went onto say Hermse is no longer em­ployed by the as­so­ci­a­tion and that the theft had come to light dur­ing an au­dit fol- low­ing com­plaints over his con­duct. He added: ‘There were ques­tions over Hermse’s con­tin­ued abil­ity to do the job and that meet­ings had been missed. There was an ex­change of views and the em­ploy­ment ceased.’

A civil case re­gard­ing the ter­mi­na­tion of Hermse’s con­tract is on­go­ing and was ref­er­enced by Sher­iff Gill in the dif­fi­culty she had in de­cid­ing how to re­solve the case.

Dur­ing her summary she told Hermse if the money is re­paid there may be no fur­ther ac­tion or there could be a com­mu­nity pay­back or­der as a di­rect al­ter­na­tive to a fine or cus­to­dial sen­tence.

In de­fer­ring sen­tenc­ing for three months to al­low Hermse to pay back the money, she added: ‘I am leav­ing the mat­ter in your hands.’

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