The former chief executive of the Racial Equality Council in Somerset walked free from Taunton Crown Court following his conviction on five counts of fraud: three charges of fraudulently trying to claim benefits, and two of possessing documents – a birth certificate and a driving licence.
Judge Jeffrey Mercer handed him five nine month prison sentences – one for each offence. Because Mr Justice Mercer decreed that the sentences were to run concurrently and not consecutively this man was able to walk free from court because he had been held on remand for thirteen months.
British Gazette comment: The British Gazette fully understands why Judge Mercer made the sentences run consecutively and not concurrently. When sentencing an offender the crime, its effect [of that crime] on its victims must be taken into account along with factors such as lack of or existence of feelings of remorse on the offender’s part as well as previous offences (if any) committed by the offender.
Let us consider the effect of this man’s offences on his victims. These are the David Onamade who is severely autistic and Mrs Onamade, David’s mother. David himself does not seem to be fully aware of the pretender’s existence and therefore cannot be said to have suffered to any significant degree. This is not however the case for David’s mother. Mrs Onamade when interviewed displayed great dignity and forbearance at what will have been a very difficult time for her. Mrs Onamade’s suffering will most likely have been two fold:
1. The feeling of unwarranted intrusion [by the offender] into the life of her son and by that hers.
2. The pain and hurt this lady must have felt to see this offender using her son’s identity to enjoy a life and achievements that her son – through no fault of his own – was incapable of ever achieving.
Apart from David and his mother, there does not appear to be any further victims of this man. It would appear that after assuming David’s identity, the offender obtained employment and was gainfully employed until 2012 and his redundancy. During the time he was employed he appears to have paid income tax and national insurance as David Onamade. It can therefore be said that the state has not suffered. Indeed it could be argued that since the offender made his contributions using a false identity he is not entitled to them.
Now let us address a charge that was not on the CPS charge sheet: that of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, this pecuniary advantage being employment. There was very clear evidence for this but no charge was laid against him. The severity of such an offence varies. If the offender after obtaining employment proved inadequate and was dismissed it could be said that the employer suffered. If however (which appears in these circumstances to be the case) the offender proved a capable employee and therefore the implication must be that the employer has not suffered loss, the punishment for such an offence should be little more than a token punishment. This probably explains why the CPS did not proceed with this charge despite the evidence.
The failure for which the culprits should be held to account is the UK Border Agency. Up to the time he walked from the dock, the whereabouts offender were know to the Border Agency: for thirteen months whilst a remand prisoner the Home Office would have been able to advise the agency in which prison he was being held. During his trial they could have found out from HM Courts Service which Crown Court the offender was being tried at.
The British Gazette therefore asks these questions:
Where were the officers of the Border Agency when the offender walked from Taunton Crown Court and into the night?
What were the officers of the Border Agency doing at the time?
Whilst it would appear that during his employment the offender proved a competent employee, so much so he was promoted to run the organisation, those employed at the border agency are clearly incompetent and should not be so employed.
Some British Gazette readers may suggest that Judge Mercer could have helped the situation by declaring that the sentences should run consecutively and not concurrently. It is clear however that the five offences were not of such severity to warrant a custodial punishment of 45 months. There may be those readers who may suggest that albeit the offender did not deserve 45 months he should have received 45 months to allow the Border Agency time to get its act together, citing that the offender could appeal against the severity of the punishment if he wished.
The British Gazette would argue against this: Such “political” sentences are the sort of things done in foreign countries; Not in England or Scotland.