A Court decision caught my eye when I was reading the legal news. Firstly, the case is interesting because it went all the way to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. Secondly, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal. Thirdly, the former employee had been ordered to pay back £97,000 having falsely claimed, in a job application, that he held qualifications and relevant work experience that he did not in fact have.

The case involved somebody called Jon Andrewes who had worked as the Chief Executive of St Margaret’s Hospice in Taunton. He claimed he had a university degree, relevant work experience and even a PhD from Plymouth University, insisting on being called Dr.

There was nothing wrong with his performance in the job, indeed the fact that he worked from 2004 to 2015 and was regularly appraised as either a strong performer or outstanding performer shows that he had not aroused suspicion at an early stage. He had also used similar lies to be appointed to roles as a Director and then Chair of the Torbay NHS Care Trust and as Chair of the Royal Cornwall NHS Hospital Trust.

At some point he was obviously caught out and the whole deck of cards came crashing down.

In 2017 he pleaded guilty to obtaining pecuniary advance by deception and two counts of fraud and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. The Proceeds of Crime Act of 2002 sets out a confiscation regime whereby criminals are relieved of their ill-gotten gains. In this case, the Crown were seeking an order that his entire earnings during the period of employment under false pretences should be confiscated. This would have been £643,000 (net earnings).

The Court of Appeal had held that it would be disproportionate to expect him to pay something back.

The Supreme Court sought a middle way and ordered he pay £97,000. There was clearly a feeling that to deprive a person of their entire earnings when the employee had apparently done a good job, would be a step too far but they also declined to agree with the employee’s submission that a ‘take nothing’ approach was appropriate. Despite the fact that he had done a good job, the Hospice and two Trusts had sought a person of honesty and integrity and would have chosen another candidate if they had known about the deception.

In carving this middle route, the Supreme Court was clearly trying to represent the difference between the earnings made as a result of the CV fraud and a lower amount of earnings that the defendant would have made had they not committed the fraud.

The same principles will apply whatever the seniority of the employee.

One of the key issues arising in the case is what background checks were done to verify qualifications and information given on the CV. Just because somebody is in a very senior position, all the status doesn’t mean we should not subject them to checks that we might make for more lowly employees. I am not sure how the deception was identified in the end but it does seem that at least 3 HR Departments have some egg on their faces?

Refreshing Law Ltd
23 August 2022