You are lucky, judge tells £40,000 loan fraudster as she avoids prison term
Former bank worker who robbed accounts forged partner's signature for cash
A mother-of-three who forged her partner's signature and took out a loan in his name has been spared a prison sentence.
Judge Neil Rafferty told Linda Allison, from Cantrell Close in Belfast, she was "extremely lucky and fortunate" to avoid custody.
The city's Crown Court was told that the 53-year-old, who also appeared in court last July for pilfering the dormant bank accounts of Northern Bank customers over a two-year period while she was employed by the business, admitted two counts of forgery.
Crown prosecutor Simon Jenkins said the offending occurred in December 2007, when she forged a loan agreement, and again in February 2008, when the defendant forged a Land Registry mortgage deed.
Allison's offending came to light earlier this year when her partner contacted the PSNI to inform them that he was aware she had forged his name on a loan agreement and on the deeds.
The loan was for slightly more than £40,000 and was claimed in 2008.
Allison's partner also told police officers that he only became aware of what had occurred after the loan company contacted him due to the "substantial arrears" on the account.
When he spoke to Allison about it, she "fully admitted" she had forged his signature.
The court heard the offending left Allison's partner "embarrassed, humiliated, upset and hurt". Mr Jenkins said the outstanding amount owed to a company in England now totalled £53,145.14 because it has been accruing interest.
He also told the court there was evidence some repayments had been made. When Allison was interviewed by police about the offences, she made full admissions.
However, Mr Jenkins said the offending occurred at around the same time Allison was stealing money from the accounts of Northern Bank customers, telling Judge Neil Rafferty that when she was being questioned about this theft, she failed to tell police about the forgeries and subsequent loan.
Pointing out that Allison stole more than £100,000 from 76 dormant accounts between November 2007 and November 2009, Mr Jenkins told the court that her criminal record was "highly relevant."
Defence barrister Taylor Campbell said his client used the loan to pay off other debts, adding she had "every intention of paying back all the money."
Mr Campbell said when Allison was sacked by the Northern Bank in 2010, the loan payments became "sporadic", but that right up until 2015 "some attempts" were made to pay off money.
He also claimed it was not the case that Allison "got the loan and ran off with the money", but rather it was a loan intended to pay off "severe debt", which he said was brought on by a "medical condition/personality disorder" that was linked to compulsive spending.
The barrister also pointed out that the offending occurred nearly a decade ago.
Handing Allison a 12-month sentence, which was suspended for three years, Judge Rafferty said Allison's partner had "every right to feel hurt and humiliated" by what she had done.
Judge Rafferty added that he was satisfied that she had made efforts to pay back the loan, stressing that because this offending emerged at the same time as the thefts from the bank, all the crimes would have been considered together.
He also told the court it was with "some degree of reluctance" that he was handing Allison a suspended sentence, and asked her: "Do you understand just how extremely lucky and fortunate you have been?".
When the defendant said she was, the judge replied: "Very well. You are free to go."