A greedy Haydon man who swindled £53,000 out of his former company, almost causing them to collapse, has had his sentence reduced after three senior judges found his jail term was “manifestly excessive”.

Nicholas Gray, who was head of finance at digital marketing agency Equimedia, used the company’s credit cards to make personal purchases of luxury items that almost forced the business, which has a turnover in excess of £20 million, to go under.

But his case was brought to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday (July 26) after he claimed the four year, nine month jail term he received in Swindon in January was too high.

He claimed Judge Jason Taylor QC was wrong to take into account “indirect” losses to the company – estimated at £678,000 which included the cost of an investigation and remedying the situation.

READ MORE: Swindon man swindled own company for luxury items - bringing it to edge of collapse

A bench made up of Lady Justice Carr, Mrs Justice Johannah Cutts and Judge Guy Kearl QC agreed, saying whilst they did not think Judge Taylor was wrong to take the indirect losses into account, he could not be sure that Gray caused the loss that would merit such a long sentence.

They quashed the sentence and reduced it to three years and ten months – plus another month for failing to surrender.

Reading the bench’s decision to the court, Lady Justice Carr said: “This was a sophisticated fraud with cunning steps by the appellant to cover his steps.

“The appellant was on a good salary of over £65,000 as at 2017. His offending was driven by pure greed.”

‘Deliberately hidden’

Gray, of Mazurek Way, used the company credit cards to make personal purchases such as clothing, watches, cash withdrawals and hotel accommodation.

He had “deliberately hidden” his fraud, with accounts he prepared for the directors labelled “wholly fictitious and completely misleading”.

Payments had been left uncollected and HMRC even threatened to wind up the company, founded by a couple in 1999.

Gray had worked for Gloucestershire-based Equimedia for around 13 years, and the company’s owners Andrew and Louise Burgess, had “championed” his career.

Mr Burgess stumbled across the fraud by chance in 2017 when he became aware of “serious financial anomalies”.

‘Loss is what is relevant’

Earlier at London’s Court of Appeal, Stanley Reiz QC, for 43-year-old Gray, had said that the indictment – one count of fraud – to which his client had pleaded guilty was “specific”.

“It was a fraud committed by the appellant which related to a misuse of credit cards.

“What later transpired is that a claim for compensation was made by the complainant company.

“Those matters at the sentencing hearing were taken into account by the sentencing judge to elevate the sentence the appellant should receive and increase the time he should serve in custody.”

He said these costs were incurred outside the indicted period, and in other offences, a sentence would not be increased based on the cost of an investigation.

“Loss is what is relevant,” he continued. “There may be a consequential loss that may extend beyond what the appellant intended, but that is not this case.”

Whilst the bench deemed it “unrealistic to ignore directly consequential financial losses”, they said that the sentencing judge “could not be sure” the loss was as high as £300,000 – the starting point for the category he chose.

“Even taking into account the number of high culpability factors, victim impact and aggravation in form of blaming others, it is difficult to see how a term of six years before mitigation and credit for guilty plea was justified,” Carr LJ said.

Gray will serve a sentence of 47 months.

It was heard that Gray had failed to attend his first court hearing, because he had been “burying his head in the sand” and had not told his family about the proceedings.

It caused the case to be delayed by four months and contributed to a backlog caused by the pandemic.