Thursday, 23 September 2021

Portsmouth Doctor Admits £1m Fraud

A Portsmouth doctor defrauded a healthcare alliance of more than £1 million.

Rumi Chhapia, 45, of Lennox Road North, Southsea, admitted one charge of fraud by abuse of position when he appeared at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, 22nd September 2021.

Fraud by abuse of position is an offence under section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006. It has a maximum penalty of 26 weeks' custody and/or an unlimited fine on summary conviction; 10 years' custody and/or an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment.

Magistrates heard that Chhapia, formerly a GP with the city's Portsdown Group Practice, was a director of Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance Limited - a group of 16 general practices providing out-of-hours care in the Portsmouth area.

He was left in sole charge of the company's finances when a fellow director was signed off sick last summer.

Between August and September 2020, Chhapia siphoned more than £1 million from the company's accounts.

Lucy Linington, prosecuting, said: "In a 41-day period this defendant has embezzled £1,133,704.50.

"I understand that £230,000 has been repaid by this defendant but that leaves the astonishing amount of £903,704.50 outstanding to the Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance Limited.

"The abuse of trust in this case is significant because this defendant was a director at the time.

"Primarily, you have a significant amount of money that has been embezzled by this defendant.

"It won't surprise you to learn that the Crown would say this matter should be submitted to the Crown Court."

Magistrates agreed that the likely sentence was outwith their sentencing powers.

Ryan Rutlidge JP, Presiding Justice, told Chhapia: "You have heard what's been said today. We are committing you to Portsmouth Crown Court because this matter is so serious that we feel you need even greater punishment than we can give."

Magistrates ordered the preparation of a pre-sentence report and granted Chhapia unconditional bail until his sentencing hearing on 22nd October 2021.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Wiltshire Woman Convicted of Threatening Journalist Over Online News Article

A Wiltshire woman has been convicted of threatening a journalist who refused to remove an online news article reporting the crimes of a relative.

Stacey Reader, 27, of Albany Close, Swindon, admitted an offence under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 when she appeared at Swindon Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, 14th September 2021.

The maximum penalty for such an offence is 26 weeks' custody and/or an unlimited fine on summary conviction; 2 years' custody and/or an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment.

Reader had initially been arrested on suspicion of blackmailing journalist Daniel Jae Webb, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided to pursue a lesser charge under the 1988 Act.

The court heard that Reader, who clearly doesn't understand the Streisand effect, had approached Mr Webb in relation to an article he had written about her relative Connor Deeks.

She asked him to remove the article, but when he refused she made threats against him.

District Judge Joanna Dickens adjourned sentencing pending the completion of a pre-sentence report.

Speaking of the conviction, Mr Webb said: "I hope this conviction sends a strong message to people who think it is acceptable to threaten or abuse journalists working to keep their communities informed, especially through the reporting of court hearings.

"You tend to develop a thick skin working in the news industry and turn a blind eye to most of the abuse you receive, but some incidents are so serious that they cannot be ignored.

"It is really important to remember that journalists are human too - with a life outside the news, a family and friends.

"This kind of abuse not only affects the person it's aimed at, but everyone close to them."

Journalists perform an absolutely crucial role in keeping their communities informed of the inner workings of the judicial process. I am a strong proponent of their right to report and the public's right to know.

I am also a strong opponent of attempts to suppress the reporting of cases that have been heard in public. Quite simply, bar the most exceptional of circumstances, convicted criminals do not have any entitlement to anonymity.

Any convicted criminal shy about having their details published by the media should have considered that beforehand.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Northumberland Man Assaulted Takeaway Boss in Kebab Rage Incident

A Northumberland man flew into a drunken rage and assaulted a takeaway owner because he was dissatisfied with the food he was served.

Paul Kelly, 43, of Hexham, admitted one charge of assault by beating when he appeared at Newcastle Magistrates' Court on Friday, 17th September 2021.

Assault by beating, an offence contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, has a maximum penalty of 26 weeks' custody on summary conviction.

Magistrates heard that Kelly, who has previous convictions for offences against the person, purchased a kebab from Hexham Pizza on the evening of Wednesday, 7th July 2021.

He returned to the shop shortly after 11 pm to complain about the standard of the food.

Omar Ahmad, prosecuting, said: "The defendant was swearing and being aggressive. The victim says the defendant picked up a kebab box and threw it at him, hitting him in the face and causing immediate pain to his right eye.

"He offered the defendant his money back and gave the money to him, which included coins.

"The defendant threw the money back at him, which hit him."

Kelly remained in the shop for several more minutes, shouting and swearing before he left the premises.

A victim personal statement by the takeaway owner, which was read to the court, said: "This incident made me feel scared because I try to be nice to everyone I meet.

"This male was so aggressive to me then assaulted me, even when I tried to give him his money back."

Kelly appeared in court unrepresented.

He said: "It was totally my fault - it was a disgrace. I'd had a few drinks and was not happy with the food I'd got.

"It was not just one-sided. I wanted to apologise to the owner of the shop but I got told not to."

Magistrates ordered Kelly to pay £150 in compensation to the owner of the takeaway.

No further details are provided about sentencing, so it may have been a standalone compensation order.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Isle of Wight Man Admits Breaching Sexual Risk Order

An Isle of Wight man has been convicted of breaching his Sexual Risk Order (SRO) by sending bizarre photographs and inappropriate messages to a teenage girl.

Harry Simmonds, 22, of Harvey Close, East Cowes, admitted two charges of breaching an SRO when he appeared at Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court on Friday, 17th September 2021.

Breach of an SRO is an offence under section 122H of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The maximum penalty for this offence is 6 months' custody and/or an unlimited fine on summary conviction; 5 years' custody on conviction on indictment.

Simmonds, who goes by the nickname "Baby Harry" owing to his unconventional tendency dress up as a baby, was made subject to the order by Portsmouth Magistrates' Court in December last year.

The order was made following a string of previous convictions for grooming and sending inappropriate images of a sexual nature to children and young people. It prohibited him from living with anyone under the age of 18 or engaging in sexual communication with anyone under the age of 18.

Magistrates heard that Simmonds breached the order by contacting the 16-year-old complainant between 24th February and 1st March 2021.

Via the medium of SnapChat he asked the girl about her boyfriend and sent her an image of himself wearing a nappy and holding a sign saying "I'm a pedo".

The girl reported the matter to the police, who arrested and interviewed Simmonds about the matter.

No sooner had he been released, than he was sending her further SnapChat messages under a pseudonym, including one saying "I'm going to rape you".

Charles Nightingale, prosecuting, told the court: "The Crown says this person presents a current and ongoing risk to young persons and the Crown says there are persistent and deliberate breaches of the order.

"This caused concern, alarm and distress to this young woman."

Mr Nightingale said in his opinion the Magistrates' sentencing powers were insufficient to deal with the offences at hand.

Oscar Vincent, mitigating, told the court that there were no definitive sentencing guidelines available for breaching an SRO, but the case was comparable to breaching a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

He asked the court to grant bail to his client, but Magistrates refused saying he was "incapable of complying with bail conditions" and no conditions could be imposed that would allay their concerns about his further offending.

Simmonds was remanded in custody until his sentencing hearing at Isle of Wight Crown Court.