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Fake barrister walks free after stealing £14,000 from a Gloucestershire business

A 30-year-old woman who conned her employers into thinking she was a qualified barrister then defrauded them of £14,000 has walked free from court.

Charlotte Elvidge, of Green Drive Cottages, Little Barrington, pleaded guilty at a hearing in December when sentencing was postponed after she agreed to find a job, stay out of trouble and start paying the money back.

But back in court this week she admitted she still had no job and had saved only £200 to hand over to the firm, CE Lifts Ltd, based near Cirencester, but avoided jail despite the previous warnings.

Elvidge had pretended to be a barrister to get a job as a contracts manager at the Rodmarton company.

Judge Ian Lawrie QC said he was 'not happy' with her lack of progress.

"I am astonished that the generosity has been ignored," he said. "It is only her good character in truth that saves her from imprisonment."

Steven Young, Elvidge's defence lawyer, said that although his client had received an 'offer of employment', she had not been able to take it up and had been relying on benefits, got into rent arrears and was due to be evicted next week.

"The job offer was in place in February," the judge said. "Irrespective, did she ever take up the job?"

Mr Young replied: "I have asked Mr Pearce (the prospective employer). Mr Pearce honestly felt that he could not offer her employment if she went to prison."

The judge said the point was if he had taken her on then should would not have faced a prison sentence and was astonished he had not grasped this.

Prosecutor Janine Wood told the judge Elvidge had defrauded her employer, CE Lifts Ltd, which she described as a small company with 15 staff.

"She was employed setting up new maintenance contracts," said Mrs Wood. "Her employer, David Mann, thought it was handy having her around as she had a background of law.

"But she abused that position by frauds."

The prosecutor said Elvidge paid company cheques to herself and using a director's credit card and fuel card to buy furniture and petrol.

When her deceit was uncovered by the company accountant and she was confronted by bosses she said 'I'm busted'.

Elvidge pleaded guilty to four offences of fraud and one of being an unqualified person claiming to be a barrister.

The judge said while the offences were serious, her lack of previous convictions had saved her from immediate jail.

"You pleaded guilty to a sequence of frauds against your employer," the judge told Elvidge "In a calculated and persistent way.

"You have not done as asked, and you could have, had you put your mind to it," the judge noted before remarking on the 'flagrant breach of trust'.

"It easily crossed custody threshold," he said, imposing an 18-month jail term suspended for 24 months with 150 hours of unpaid work

"It is by the slenderest of margins," the judge warned her, "I reserve all breaches to myself. I will send you to prison if you breach."

The charges were:

Fraud between 9th Nov 2015 and 30th Feb 2016 by abusing her position as maintenance and contracts manager of CE Lifts by drawing cheques payable to herself; Fraud on 3rd March 2016 by falsely claiming to Homebase that she was entitled to use a Capital One card in the name Peter Perry and charge purchases to it; Fraud on 3rd March 2016 by falsely representing to B&Q that she could charge purchases to the same credit card; Fraud between 1st January 2016 and 4th April 2016 by claiming to various petrol stations that she had authority to charge goods to a Velocity fuel card; *And having never been a barrister she used the name, title or description of barrister when she told her managing director David Mann that she was a qualified barrister at law with intent that he believed that.

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