A council worker who embezzled £1.06 million from his employers to settle gambling debts has won a bid to have his prison sentence cut.
Financial computing specialist Mark Conway diverted public money to his own accounts after losing cash betting online with the Bookmaker William Hill.
The 55-year-old embezzled £1,065,085 from Dundee City Council during his crime spree before he was caught in 2016.
He was given a five year and four months long sentence in August the following year for his crime.
However, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission sent the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.
Lawyers at the legal watchdog concluded that Conway may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.
The SCCRC concluded that judge Graeme Buchanan QC didn’t know that Dundee City Council had recovered the stolen cash from its insurers and from William Hill.
The commission believed that had judge Buchanan known this, he may have given Conway a shorter custodial term.
The commission also believed that offenders who had been convicted in similar circumstances had been given shorter sentences.
Appeal judges Lord Carloway, Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull agreed that the sentence imposed on Conway was too harsh when compared to terms given to people convicted of similar offences.
In a judgement published by the court today, the court reduced Conway’s sentence to four years.
Lord Turnbull – who gave the judgment – wrote: “Despite the limitations of the information available, the picture which emerges reasonably clearly from this collection of cases involving similar conduct to that engaged in by the appellant, is that the sentence selected in his case stands out as being high.
“The sentence imposed shall be quashed and in its place, there shall be substituted a sentence of four years.|”
Conway, formerly of Brechin, Angus, made entries in the council’s computer system pretending to represent sums due to genuine suppliers.
Suspicions were aroused when an employee noted payment to a building firm had been sent to a Nationwide building society account.
He was then suspended before auditors uncovered his crime.
The judgement tells of how Dundee City Council recovered £335,923 from its insurers. The local authority also took £258,966 from Conway’s pension pot.
The judgement also reveals how in March 2018, the Gambling Commission carried out an investigation into Conway’s relationship with William Hill.
The probe concluded that there had been “systemic failings” with William Hill’s money laundering policies and how to limit harm to problem gamblers.
The Gambling Commission then ordered William Hill to pay Dundee City Council £500,000.
The SCCRC concluded that had judge Buchanan known that the local authority had been repaid, he may have imposed a shorter jail sentence on Conway.
The SCCRC also pointed to the fact that Conway was a first offender, with an ‘excellent work record’ who was at “minimal” risk of re-offending.
The commission said this meant the sentence imposed on Conway may have been excessive.
However, the appeal judges concluded that payments made to the council from William Hill did not provide adequate mitigation for Conway’s offending.
Lord Turnbull wrote: “The effect of the payment by William Hill is more difficult to determine.
“On the one hand, had they done what was required of them they might have ceased to engage in betting transactions with the appellant.
“Whether that would have brought his offending to an end or not seems entirely speculative and perhaps unlikely.
“Equally, the fact that the company was in breach of a social responsibility requirement to the appellant in failing to check the extent of his gambling is something which only has a tenuous connection with the fact that he was embezzling money from his employers.
“Assuming at best for the appellant that the fact of the payment by William Hill can be viewed as a mitigating factor, the weight that properly can be attached to it is limited.
“In particular, it would be wrong for a sentencer to engage in a form of arithmetical exercise through which the custodial sentence to be imposed became shorter by way of correlation with the increasing amount of money recouped by the victim.”