Chirnside embezzler has her jail sentence doubled

A CHIRNSIDE bank worker who produced a knife in the dock of Selkirk Sheriff Court after being jailed for embezzlement has had her 16-month jail sentence doubled.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th May 2010, 12:37 pm

Gemma Moffat started slashing at her arm with the weapon as Reliance court officers tried to restrain her.

The 26-year-old had just been sent to prison for 16 months on February 15 for conning an elderly dementia sufferer out of 40,000 when she suddenly shouted "No, no, no."

She then used the small knife to cut her left wrist covering Reliance officers and a social worker with blood.

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Mother-of-two Moffat appeared back in the same dock at Selkirk Sheriff Court on Tuesday to be told she had committed a serious offence.

Her lawyer asked Sheriff Janys Scott to impose a concurrent sentence so that it would not affect her October release date from the 16 month term for embezzlement.

But Sheriff Scott ordered that she serve another 16 months running consecutively on expiry of her current sentence after pleading guilty to charges of possessing an offensive weapon and breach of the peace.

She said: "You brought a knife into court where there were members of the public and people doing their public duty.

"Bringing a knife into court exposed others to harm and the court is bound to regard it as serious."

Fiona Caldwell, prosecuting, said Moffat, of Windram Road, Chirnside, had been appearing in court on an embezzlement charge.

She had abused her position with the Royal Bank of Scotland to embezzle the money from a vulnerable 78-year-old neighbour's account.

The court was told Moffat used the 40,000 to clear debts, fund a holiday and treat herself to presents.

Miss Caldwell said: "Prior to being sentenced a report was submitted by the criminal justice team on the request of the court.

"In it high concern was expressed that if she received a custodial sentence there was a high risk of self-harm or suicide.

"On February 15 the procedural court was in session and during the course of the proceedings the accused would appear from the public benches and it was known to her that custody was a likely option.

"Just prior to midday her case was called and she took her seat in the dock area from the public benches.

"During the initial summing up the accused was sitting calmly with her head lowered with one hand on her lap and the other inside her clothing. She was not outwardly agitated.

"The sheriff requested a short recess to consider various reports that had been submitted to him and left the bench.

"When the sheriff returned he requested the accused stand for sentence and imposed a custodial sentence of 16 months.

"She immediately became visibly stressed, lifted her shoulders and was shouting 'No no, no'. She sat back down and moved along the bench where the female Reliance officer was sitting.

"She cowered in the corner to try and get away from both reliance officers.

"A few feet away was a member of the Criminal Justice team and she shouted, "she has got a knife".

"It was similar to a vegetable knife with a green handle.

"She cut her left arm with a downward movement several times."

Miss Caldwell said at this moment the courtroom police officer entered and saw the struggle with the Reliance officers and intervened as they tried to stop her harming herself.

She added that the knife was removed and there was no further injury.

Moffat was taken to the custody room in the court cells for treatment and later taken to Borders General Hospital near Melrose for her wrist to be bandaged where she had superficial wounds.

Miss Caldwell continued: "The accused's reaction not only put herself in danger but potentially others. It was only averted by the quick actions of those present."

In addition to blood on the court officers, a specialist cleaning team had to be brought in at the expense of the sheriff clerk's department.

Moffat's lawyer Roy Miller insisted his client had no intention of harming others and had not brandished the knife at anyone.

He said she had a history of depression and self-harm from the age of 15 years old.

Mr Miller continued: "This was someone in a very stressful situation and she made a wrong choice. She fully appreciates the seriousness of the situation."

The lawyer asked that any jail sentence be imposed concurrently so that it would not affect his client's October release date.

She was also being considered for release next month on a restriction of liberty order if she met the criteria.

But Sheriff Scott said she would have imposed a two-year jail sentence to run consecutively but reduced it to 16 months taking into account the early guilty plea.