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Sheriff criticises Crown prosecution decision

16 March 2006

A Perthshire sheriff criticised the Crown yesterday because he was unable to send a conman to jail.

James Brown, 25, of Alyth, Perthshire, was in Perth Sheriff Court, accused of ripping off a string of small business owners in Perthshire, Angus and Fife to a total of £10,400. Sheriff Michael Fletcher was unhappy with the Crown's decision to prosecute Brown on summary complaint, because it meant a jail sentence was now inappropriate for the offence.

The sheriff told Brown that if he jailed him, he would only serve a maximum of one month for the offence, because he pled guilty at the first opportunity. The one month sentence, Sheriff Fletcher added, would be a complete waste of time. Brown was tagged for six months and ordered to pay compensation totalling £2,000.

Defence solicitor Jim Laverty said better checks and balances in place in the shops would have stopped Brown, who admitted 13 separate charges of fraudulently obtaining goods. The offences took place in November and December 2002.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office said that the prosecutor had a duty to take into account all of the available evidence and circumstances when deciding what would be the appropriate proceedings to pursue, and that in this case, the Crown had opted for summary proceedings.