A PREGNANT woman has been jailed for siphoning off more than £80,000 from a company where she worked as a finance manager — despite pleas from her barrister to spare her from a potentially harmful spell behind bars.
Zoe Guest (35, pictured), who is nine weeks’ pregnant, wept as Judge Peter Kelson jailed her for a year-and-a-half but acquitted her partner, splitting them apart as they stood side by side in the dock.
The defendant stole £81,500 from medical supplies firm Trulife while working for them as a finance manager between August 2016 and September 2018, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
She admitted the fraud but asked the court through her barrister if she could serve a sentence in the community given her expected new arrival.
Her barrister, Ms Natalie Csengeri, cited an academic report published last week which called on judges to avoid sending pregnant women to prison to prevent harm to them and their unborn baby.
Judge Kelson said no-one in his position relished sending an expectant mother to prison but he locked Guest up for 18 months, telling her an immediate spell behind bars was the only appropriate punishment.
Mr Richard Davies, prosecuting, said Guest had siphoned £81,500 into a joint account she held with her partner David Butterfield.
He appeared alongside Guest at last Wednesday’s hearing, accused of aiding and abetting his partner, but he was acquitted after the prosecution offered no evidence in his case.
Mr Davies said the general manager of Trulife had discovered in December 2018 external payments which could not be explained along with fake invoices.
The manager discovered that the payments had been made to a joint account in Guest and Butterfield’s name.
Mr Davies said Guest had left Trulife by agreement with the firm in September 2018.
The defendant was quizzed by police in January 2019 and told officers she had worked for Trulife since 2006.
Guest, who was on £26,000 a year, said she had been having problems with her personal finances but denied ever setting up payments to her joint account.
Guest, of West Park Drive, Swallownest, had been due to stand trial for fraud in March but changed her plea at an earlier hearing.
Mitigating, Ms Csengeri said Guest had built up a £30,000 credit card debt at the time of her offending.
She said Guest had felt pressured at work, which had affected her thinking skills and judgement.
Ms Csengeri said Guest was nine weeks pregnant at the time of last week’s hearing, and highlighted a recent study which recommended expectant mothers should not be jailed to avoid risks to the mother and unborn baby.
She said Guest had saved up £20,000 to pay the company back.
Judge Kelson said the fraud had been sophisticated and was an abuse of trust.
“There is the fact that you are nine weeks’ pregnant,” he said.
“That is always a matter of extreme importance to any sentencing judge and I do have it in mind.
“I have formed the view that this fraud is so serious that appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody.
“This is fraud involving a great deal of money — a long, sophisticated fraud from a person in a position of trust.
“Such offending must be deterred.”
A hearing will be held on June 13 to discuss how much Guest should pay back under the Proceeds of Crime Act.