A BID to prosecute two Saltcoats women who were accused of fraudulently obtaining more than £36,000 by falsifying timesheets has been thrown out by a judge.

Jan Upex, 55, of Links Road, and Dawn Upex, 31, of Millglen Road, had been accused of operating a fraudulent scheme between March 29, 2014 and March 25, 2016.

The pair denied the charges, and their solicitors entered a 'plea of oppression', on grounds of a delay in proceedings, during a hearing at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court.

The two women were accused of operating a fraudulent scheme to obtain payment for unworked hours amounting to £36,267 at Warner Street in Stevenston.

The Crown alleged that Jan Upex had completed and submitted personal assistant timesheets for care for a now deceased woman, claiming time had been worked when it had not by Dawn Upex and four others.

Jan Upex was said to have applied false signatures purporting to be signed by the deceased as a recipient of personal care, and submitting these to the Ayrshire Independent Living Network, which is based in Princes Street in Ardrossan. 

She was also alleged to have gathered money based on these false hours claimed, to have paid wages to four others for hours that had genuinely been worked, and to have kept the difference, and paid a salary to Dawn Upex based on hours falsely claimed that she had worked.

The payments were funded by North Ayrshire Council, ILF Scotland and personal contributions from the deceased.

The pair were said to have claimed payments for 2,745 hours of work which had not been completed, amounting to £36,267.

The court was told that the matter was reported to police on December 12, 2017.

Following a number of court hearings since the original appearance in May, a final decision was made on the case on July 6.

Defence solicitors Simon Brown and Brian Holliman argued that the case had taken too long to reach court, and that the accused had suffered oppression as a result.

The concept of oppression, in Scots law, deals with a variety of situations in which the prosecution, or continued prosecution, of an accused may give rise to unfairness.

The two lawyers argued that their clients had been prejudiced due to the time that had elapsed, and called for the case to be thrown out.

Mr Holliman referenced the case of Sylvia MacLennan, a solicitor who was accused of embezzling more than £7,000 from her Caithness law firm.

Her case was thrown out by a sheriff because it had taken so long to come to court last year.

Sheriff James Varney deliberated on the decision for more than an hour, before returning to the bench to announce his ruling.

He said: “I have considered carefully the benefit of the applied court decision, and I have applied the high test of oppression, which has not been met.

“However, I do find that there has been, and will be, prejudice towards both accused in this case.

“Disclosure has been made only recently. There has been a lack of explanation for the delay from the Crown, the case was not particularly complex, and there has been a significant period of time elapsed since it first began.

“I consider the present case exceptional, with an unjustifiable delay, and I’m not satisfied that a trial can start soon.

“I cannot acquit the accused but can only discontinue the case.”