Man who embezzled public purse escapes jail

A FORMER Shetland Enterprise manager who embezzled £14,778 of public funds from his employer avoided jail this week because a family member is paying back the cash.

Steven Leask, 32, of Uphouse, Aith, took the money from Highlands and Islands Enterprise between February and May last year when he was an area operations manager.

Appearing for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday, Leask was smartly dressed in a suit with a bag packed ready for a possible trip to prison in Aberdeen.

The court heard £5,000 had been paid back and a further £10,000 would be available within a month, which Leask would repay to the lender by standing order, now that he is working again.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said it had been a deliberate fraud of public money and if he had been prosecuting the case that is what Leask would have been charged with, rather than the lesser offence of embezzlement.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Leask buried his head in the sand regarding the crime to begin with but had now faced up to it and was fully aware he had let the community down.

When he took the money he had been under considerable stress in his job. But the Sheriff said stress should be expected when someone agrees to take a senior position.

He deferred sentence until 3rd December to see if the £10,000 is repaid, which he said would make a big difference as to whether Leask ultimately goes to prison or not.


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