Court / Lengthy prison sentence for man who embezzled £160k from Post Office

AN EMPLOYEE who embezzled £160,000 from a post office in Shetland to fund a gambling addiction which had “spiralled out of control” has been sent to prison for 28 months.

Jack Simpson, of North Road, Lerwick, carried out the offence between 4 January and 2 August 2021 while he was employed as a post office clerk in the Commercial Street office in Lerwick.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Thursday how the 29-year-old gained the money by removing cash from bags which were meant to go in a safe before being collected, as well as through making around 70 payments into bank accounts.

The court was also told that police uncovered payments Simpson had made from his own accounts worth more than £270,000 to gambling companies, but he had made a “significant loss”.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said his client had “deep remorse” over the offence.

But Sheriff Ian Cruickshank said the fraud involved “elaborate deception” and ruled there was no alternative to a custodial sentence.


Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said at the end of the day, or when the till was full, cash would end up going in bags which would be kept in a large safe in the main office until collection.

But suspicion began to be raised by the Post Office over incidences of these bags being “reversed” – which is when the cash is taken out, usually to recount.

When Simpson was asked about this by Post Office staff from outside the branch, he said all was in order and the cash was awaiting collection.

But the court heard that Simpson had made false entries into the Post Office system in an attempt to cover his tracks.

There were also later suspicions from the owner of the branch in Conochies newsagents, who does not live in Shetland but visits regularly, with the matter reported to the police.

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Concerns were raised when nine bags of cash were collected when there should have been 27.

The owner reviewed CCTV footage and saw Simpson blowing air from his mouth into cash bags to make it look like they were full.

He was also seen taking a bundle of cash wrapped in something and throwing it into a mail bag.

Police searched Simpson’s home address and found correspondence from the Post Office as well as documentation from the branch.

They also found evidence of Simpson having debt. The court heard that Simpson was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.

Post Office auditors later arrived to check out the branch and confirmed there were no cash bags awaiting collection, with a £160,000 shortfall in cash identified.

During police enquiries officers noted among Simpson’s spend on gambling that he had made payments to 25 separate companies.


The court also heard that Simpson had gone away on a “shopping spree”.

During the period involved the post office branch was closed for one week, the court heard.

Defence agent Allan said his client’s gambling problem was “out of control” at the time. He has not gambled for eight months, he added.

Allan pointed to how gambling and advertising of the industry is very prominent, from footballs strips to TV. “Unfortunately for him he was unable to resist the lure of this,” he said.

But Allan said this was not an excuse for Simpson’s actions.

He said his client wanted to apologise to the Post Office customers, adding that he was aware it was not a victimless crime.

Allan said a criminal justice social work report prepared ahead of the hearing showed that Simpson had minimal risk of reoffending if his gambling was under control.


Sheriff Cruickshank ruled that Simpson’s motivation was “driven by personal financial gain”.

He also called it a “mind-numbing breach of trust”.

The Sheriff accepted that Simpson was a first-time offender but said “given the nature of this offence there is no alternative but to impose a custodial sentence”.

Consideration of a confiscation order will continue.

The National Gambling Helpline can be contacted on 0808 8020 133 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Space2face Shetland

Space2face Shetland is an independent and confidential service which uses Restorative Justice and the arts to bring those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication. We enable everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.

If you would like to reach out to us, please contact us via e-mail info@space2face.org or mobile 07564 832467.

If you would like to know more, visit our website www.space2face.org, or our Facebook page #space2faceshetland.

The project is also currently fundraising to secure office space in Shetland’s brand-new creativity and wellness centre, The Mission. If you’re interested in getting involved, or making a donation, head over to www.space2face.org/how-you-can-help



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