It has to be the most middle class offence imaginable. Lura Pacheco lived in Chadwell Heath (the in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham) with her 11 year old daughter (and maybe others). She wanted her daughter to go to a school in the neighbouring, and some believe posher, London Borough of Havering.
Rather than move, she presumably became the toast of thousands of Islington dinner parties by sending Havering “a forged tenancy agreement for a home in nearby Hornchurch with a bogus property company to hoodwink the council into offering her a place“.
What’s the offence?
It’s not completely clear from the news report, but seemingly an offence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, we’d have a guess at s3 – “It is an offence for a person to use an instrument which is, and which he knows or believes to be, false, with the intention of inducing somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice“.
The ‘prejudice’ here would be the fact that school places are allocated on a council by council basis, and the system breaks down if people cross borough boundaries as they please.
What was the sentence?
It was reported as ‘100 hours Community Service’ and a £500 pound fine. This is a bit old-school as Community Service went out ten years or so ago.
We’re guessing that it was a Community Order (it’s not really serious enough for a Suspended Sentence) with a condition of undertaking 100 hours unpaid work. There may well have been some costs as well, but there would also have been the victim surcharge.
There aren’t any sentencing guidelines for this offence. Presuming that this is the first time that Ms Pacheco has never been in trouble before, this seems a little bit steep – whilst it was wrong, it wasn’t actually done for personal gain. I imagine that it may have been to send out a message to the wider public that this sort of behaviour is not going to be tolerated.
We doubt that there will be an appeal however, the sentence could have been a bit shorter, but I doubt any Crown Court Judge would have much sympathy with her.