Jailed woman set for early release

A FORMER operations manager who was jailed for stealing almost £50,000 from her employers could be released in October.

Caroline Ashford, formerly of Ashlea Close, Brighouse, was given a 20-month prison sentence in May after admitting taking the cash from Huddersfield-based catering firm Shaw and Lisle.

Bradford Crown Court was told that 60 people lost their jobs as result of the mother-of-two’s offending between March 2009 and November 2010.

The debt-ridden 48-year-old had used the identities of former workers so that she could pay “wages” into various bank accounts.

Following Ashford’s sentence hearing proceedings were started under the Proceeds of Crime Act to see if she had any assets, but Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC was told that she had nothing.

During a brief hearing, which took place without Ashford being brought back to the crown court, the judge made a formal declaration that her benefit figure from criminal conduct amounted to just over £98,000, but because she does not have any assets at present he could only make a nominal order that she pay £1 or face a further seven days in custody.

Judge Durham Hall conceded that making a £1 order may raise eyebrows among the public, but he stressed that if Ashford did come into any money in the future it could still be recovered from her.

During the hearing Ashford’s lawyer Mark Brookes said she was due for release in October.

Back in May prosecutor Martin Sharpe told Bradford Crown Court how Ashford, who had no previous convictions, started working for the company in June 2007 as a human resources manager and was quickly promoted to operations manager with responsibility for the wages of the entire firm.

The offending came to light after some of the ex-workers started receiving letters from the Inland Revenue about unpaid tax.

They contacted the firm’s directors after Ashford’s claims that it would all be sorted out proved false.

Ashford’s lawyer Mark Brookes revealed that she had built up credit cards debts and mortgage arrears following the breakdown of her marriage.