HMA v Thandiwe Matiliti 2019

Ms Matikiti has successfully appealed against a 14 month prison sentence. The appellant pled guilty you fraud after claiming £23,000 in student funding after she told agencies she had indefinite leave to remain in the UK when this was not the case. The High Court agreed with the appellant’s argument that a community based disposal would have been appropriate in the circumstances.

The Appeal Court concluded as she was a first offender and there was a presumption against custodial sentences for first offenders this should have been considered. This was important to the appellant as a sentence of over 12 months would result in her being deported from the UK. The appeal court agreed that the sentence being custodial did not have to be inevitable, despite the high level of funds involved in the fraud. Lord Glennie said: “It should be emphasised that, contrary to what appears to have been the sheriff’s understanding, the case law does not require there to be a custodial sentence in this type of case; and any suggestion based on such case law that such a sentence will usually be appropriate has to be tempered by the presumption that now exists against sentences of less than one year. “In any event the circumstances in this case are, we think, exceptional, having regard in particular to the nature and purpose of the fraud which was committed to enable her to get funding for worthwhile and necessary training with the view to a career in nursing.

Having regard to this and to the statutory presumption in her case against a custodial sentence, we consider that the matter could properly have been dealt with by a community payback order.” Despite this, the appeal court noted that this could not be done practically since the appellant had served almost all of her sentence and therefore in a sense she would be punished twice. Therefore, the sentence was quashed and the appellant was admonished.