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Surrogacy charity founder sentenced for embezzlement

29 August 2017
Appeared in BioNews 915

A surrogacy charity founder has been convicted of embezzling £50,000.

Mrs Georgina Dodd, the first person in the UK to conceive a child using a surrogate, took money from her charity Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS) over a two-year period between 2005 to 2006.

Passing sentence at Tain Sheriff Court on 21 August, Sheriff Chris Dickson ordered Mrs Dodd, 69, of Lairg, Sutherland, to carry out 300 hours of unpaid community work and wear an electronic curfew tag for the next 120 days.

Mrs Dodd set up COTS in 1984 with her husband, after their son was born to a surrogate. The charity offered support and services to childless couples, in return for a membership fee and annual subscription. Mrs Dodd worked in the charity as a voluntary secretary and treasurer, and she and her husband were the two signatories to the charity's bank account.

However, Mrs Dodd also set up a secret account in the charity's name and paid COTS cheques into it. She made transfers and wrote cheques to herself and her son, and would also forge her husband's signature.

At the 2006 COTS annual general meeting, Mrs Dodd had announced that the annual membership subscription would need to be increased. Three months after this meeting, she also wrote a newsletter article requesting urgent donations to the organisation.

'[The chair of COTS] phoned the accused and spoke with her about this and the accused informed her that funds were drastically low,' said Mr David Morton, the procurator fiscal of the trial.

The chair then requested to view the charity accounts and bank statements.

'During this enquiry, [the chair] uncovered a number of discrepancies and suspected the accused had been taking the money herself. She later reported the matter to police,' said Mr Morton.

The case finally came before the Crown in January 2012. Mrs Dodd offered no dispute to the prosecution's case.

'She frittered the money away. It is as simple as that,' said defence lawyer Liam Robertson. 'I have asked her at length what happened to the money but she has been unable to provide a concrete explanation.'

Sheriff Dickson took into account Mrs Dodd's personal history and circumstances, including her age, previous good record, the length of time until trial, the fact she was a carer for both her husband and sister-in-law, and that she had repaid £15,000 of the money.

'I do not consider a custodial sentence the only appropriate way of dealing with this,' he said.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
First woman in UK to use surrogate embezzled £50,000 from charity
The Press and Journal |  22 August 2017
Lairg woman sentenced after admitting embezzling £50,000 from surrogacy charity she founded
Northern Times |  21 August 2017
Surrogacy charity founder embezzled £50,000 from cause
BBC |  22 August 2017
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