Introduction and Facts
It was a heartwarming story – Simon Buckden, a 44 year old veteran of Bosnia, both Gulf Wars and Northern Ireland, announced that he would run 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise awareness of PTSD and money for Help for Heroes.
During this period, he announced that he had rectal cancer, but carried on running and was even offered the chance to carry the Olympic torch.
The only problem is that it was all a lie. Although he had been employed by the army, Mr Buckden never saw frontline action (he was a military clerk) and the graphic accounts he had given were made up.
More than that, Mr Buckden’s medical records showed that he had never been diagnosed with cancer.
Mr Buckden was charged with fraud and went for trial in Leeds Crown Court. In total, the allegation was that he had taken advantage of peoples generosity under the false pretences.
The full details aren’t clear, but amongst other matters, Mr Buckden got a £2,000 holiday, £1,500 to set up a social enterprise, a publicity film, a place on a speaking course and free therapy sessions.
The total value defrauded was over £7,500, although it wasn’t quantified exactly in the news reports.
Although he denied the offence, he pleaded guilty half way through his trial, on 4th November 2016.
Mr Buckden was sentenced on 7th November to 16 months imprisonment. How did the Judge come up with that?
The starting point is the Sentencing Guidelines for fraud. Looking at page 6 there it is probably High Culpability on the basis of the abuse of trust. The value of the fraud puts it in Harm Category 4 (although it could be bumped up a category in the circumstances) to give a starting point of 18 months and range of 26 weeks up to 3 years.
Although the value puts it towards the bottom of that, it was a nasty offence. This is a case where a Judge could go up the guidelines given the circumstances. Clearly there was tremendous goodwill towards Mr Buckden, and the public were seriously misled.
There was a plea of guilty, although it was during the trial, so it is not clear how much (if any) credit was given for the plea of guilty. It’s always a tricky one, but it is likely that some very modest amount was knocked off in light his long overdue acceptance of responsibility.
For that reason, the sentence passed would not appear to be in any way out of the ordinary, and could possibly have been a little higher.
The abuse of trust though was probably enough for most judges to decide that the sentence could not be suspended, and it is very unlikely that he or she would be criticised for making this sentence immediate.
For those reasons, we would not expect any appeal to succeed …