On Friday, Peterborough Magistrates Court heard how Victoria Lawson stole more than £8,000 while working Saturdays in the lingerie department of John Lewis' Queensgate Shopping Centre branch – a part-time position she held in addition to her paralegal job at a Lincoln law firm and a voluntary role providing unpaid legal advice to vulnerable people in London.
The crime recalls that committed by Cardiff trainee solicitor Hayley Davies, who was given 250 hours unpaid community work in April and told she’ll never work in the legal profession again, after unsuccessfully trying to claim fake refunds from John Lewis as a customer.
Unlike Davies, Lawson was successful in her dodgy dealings, with amounts ranging from £205 to £3,184 (totalling £8,101.90) working their way into her bank account between June and August. However, she was rumbled when her last fraudulent transaction, conducted on August 4 for a whopping £2,040.90, raised suspicions among fellow lingerie department staff members.
In her police interview, Lawson, a history graduate who converted to law by the GDL route, said she had committed the offences because she was “sad and depressed and wanted to cheer herself up”.
In court on Friday, Lawson’s solicitor said she had struggled to find a training contract and described her as “sensible”, “ordinary”, “clever”, “ambitious” and “hard-working”. The offences were, she added, “out-of-character”.
The solicitor continued: “She can’t explain why she did it. She doesn’t have any idea. She had a significant amount of savings in her account already.”
Lawson is receiving psychiatric support in the hope of identifying the cause of her actions, which her solicitor indicated are linked to feelings of loneliness and isolation after her return to rural Lincolnshire from university.
The case has been adjourned until Friday September 14 for a pre-sentence report.