Judge shows mercy on suffering crash victim in fake £20 notes case

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A LONG-suffering crash victim who tried to pass on fake £20 notes after she was duped by a tradesman into receiving them has been shown mercy by a judge.

Shelagh Hughes was facing jail after trying to pay for a £1 ice cream with a forgery at a market in Sunderland last September.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 45-year-old had three of the fake notes in her purse when she was stopped by the police.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court she had already tried and failed to pay for shopping in Marks & Spencer in the city two days earlier.

Hughes, who is still suffering from injuries she received in a car accident two years ago and appeared in court on crutches, admitted tendering counterfeit currency and having custody or control of counterfeit currency.

She sat sobbing in the dock throughout the sentencing hearing yesterday.

Mr Justice Openshaw told her: “Passing counterfeit currency has always been regarded as a grave offence.

“The sentences of the court must make it abundantly clear that upon conviction for such offences, custodial sentences are almost inevitable.”

The judge said he could show leniency in Hughes’ case after hearing how she had been left vulnerable and unable to return to her job due to her serious injuries and had been given the fake notes by a tradesman she had sold block paving to.

Unable to afford to lose the cash by handing the poor quality forgeries to the police for disposal, she tried to use them.

Justice Openshaw said: “I accept she was herself a victim of a confidence trick in which these notes were passed to her.

“She took them in good faith, she did not realise until she first tendered them that she had been duped.

“Instead of standing the loss herself, which she could ill afford, she made a foolish decision to try to pass them on.”

The judge sentenced Hughes, of Gilesgate, Durham, to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision.

Justice Openshaw told her: “You have no place in the crown court and if you take my advice you won’t come back.”

Nigel Barnes, defending, said Hughes has been exploited due to the vulnerable state she was left in after the road smash.

Mr Barnes said: “She is indeed the victim in the sense she was not someone who was ever part of the process, indeed she was the person who was given it as what she thought was a bona fide payment.

“She has not tried to gain anything, just tried to make up the loss in an entirely inappropriate way.”

Mr Barnes said Hughes had been too fearful to confront the man who gave her the bogus cash or report him to the police.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho