MD bought kitchen instead of paying workers

The managing director of a Norfolk recruitment agency paid for a fitted kitchen and new windows out of company funds instead of paying casual workers, a court heard on Friday.

The managing director of a Norfolk recruitment agency paid for a fitted kitchen and new windows out of company funds instead of paying casual workers, a court heard on Friday.

Norwich Crown Court heard that Christine Lewiss of Trimingham fleeced nine members of staff to the tune of �11,000.

During that time her company, Rail Recruit UK Ltd in Prince of Wales Road, Cromer, paid her husband �37,000 while �6,500 was withdrawn to fund the home improvements.

The details emerged as the 44-year-old appealed against an order to compensate her former employees in full. Lewiss, who now lives off benefits after the company was wound up, pleaded poverty and said she could not afford to pay up.

But Judge Paul Downes rejected this bid, although he did reduce the compensation order from �11,187 to the net sum �8,450 as the priority was for the 'workers not the taxpayer' to get their money back.

He said: 'I have seen evidence that you are drawing benefits but I am quite sure that you have other assets that you can draw upon.'

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Judge Downes added that he did not have the power to disqualify Lewiss, of Beacon Road, Trimingham, from acting as a company director but, if he could, he would.

Prosecutor Stephen Grayson described how the nine workers had not been paid after working on a contract in late 2007 to build rail side troughs for a subcontractor of Network Rail in Wales. One was left �2,500 out of pocket.

Andrew Oliver, defending, said: 'Her financial predicament is such that she is not in any position to pay that amount of compensation.'

Referring to the money drawn out of the account for the kitchen and windows, he said the business was run from home meaning it was a legitimate expense.

He added: 'It is quite possible that two or so years ago she spent money on items that in hindsight she should not have spent money on. At that time there was no suggestion that the company would struggle in this way.'

The court was shown documents in which Lewiss claimed the firm had an annual turnover of �500,000. Mr Oliver said this had been an exaggeration in an attempt to attract business.

Lewiss has previous convictions for dishonesty and obtaining money by deception. The appeal came after she was convicted of nine counts of withholding money from workers at Yarmouth Magistrates Court.

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