Crown Office worker jailed for stealing more than £200,000 of evidence

A prosecution service worker who stole hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash and drugs from an evidence store has been jailed for more than three years.

Katherine Vaughan, 34, of Aberdeen, worked as a production keeper for the Crown Office in the city when she embezzled more than £90,000 in cash and stole £147,000 of drugs – including kilos of heroin and cocaine – over nine years.

Among other stolen evidence items found in her home in Great Northern Road were sanitary pads, a stun gun, cigarette ends, chewing gum, jewellery, clingwrap and a safe.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard she used the money to buy expensive make-up and jewellery, as well as clothes, piercings and tattoos.

Jailing the first offender for three years and nine months, judge Lord Beckett told her stealing items of evidence that her job required her to keep safe was a “quite extraordinary breach of trust”.

Vaughan knew her behaviour was wrong but it was a “compulsion”, her lawyer Ximena Vengoechea told the court.

Ms Vengoechea said it stemmed from a troubled childhood, with Vaughan describing herself as a “problem child”.

The court heard Vaughan made the first of several attempts to take her own life aged 12.

She struggled at school and was bullied after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome which caused hirsutism and weight gain.

Ms Vengoechea described Vaughan as a “woman that has been lonely, has developed a deep-seated sense of self-hatred and sense of worthlessness”.

She added: “The reason for her behaviour, it’s directly stemming from her sense of worthlessness.”

The lawyer said Vaughan took money when she was feeling low to buy things to make her feel good.

The court heard Vaughan has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression and anxiety.

Lord Beckett told Vaughan he had taken into account a medical report indicating her mental health had some part in her offending.

He said: “You worked for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, whose functions include the prosecution of crime.

“In order to do that, it is entrusted by the police with evidence which has been seized during criminal investigations.

“The preservation of such evidence is necessary to prove cases in court and that is why it is kept secure.

“It was your job to keep it secure but over the course of almost nine years you embezzled the items referred to in the charge.”

He added: “Whilst many of these things could have little or no use to you, you embezzled £91,832.82, of which £90,484.98 remains unaccounted for.

“Items taken – including a prohibited weapon, 1.7kg of diamorphine, commonly known as heroin, and 2.4kg of cocaine, which the police had taken off the streets and made secure – found themselves in the insecure location of your home.

“Whilst the court has heard that what you did has not actually impeded criminal prosecutions so far and it is possible that it may not do so, it plainly had that potential.

“This represents a quite extraordinary breach of trust.”

Jailing her, he said: “Given the gravity of this crime, there is no suitable alternative to imprisonment.

“I consider it necessary to punish you and to seek to deter persons, as you were, in such a position of trust.

“As your case shows, such a crime was surprisingly easy for you to accomplish and went undetected for many years.

“The court must mark the gravity of this crime and condemn such conduct.”

Vaughan pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to taking the items between January 1 2011 and September 27 2019.