People who lie about their qualifications or experience on their CV and are offered a job as a result can be stripped of their earnings – but only the ‘profit’ made through their deception, the Supreme Court has ruled.
In its judgment in a case involving the former CEO of a hospice who fraudulently claimed he had university degrees and inflated his work experience, the court found the individual was entitled to keep some of the money he earned through the services he provided the employer.
In 2004, Jon Andrewes applied for the role of chief executive at St Margaret’s Hospice in Taunton, Somerset. In his application form, he claimed to have a degree in social policy and politics and an MPhil in poverty and social justice from Bristol University. He also claimed to have an MBA from Edinburgh University, an advanced diploma in management accounting, and to be studying for a PhD in ethics and management at Plymouth University. None of this was true.
Andrewes also made false claims about his employment history. He claimed he had been chief executive of the Groundwork Devon and Cornwall charity and chief executive of Groundwork South West. Although he had been employed by the charity, there was no record of him being designated chief executive.
He was appointed as the hospice’s CEO in December 2004 at an initial annual salary of £75,000. He remained in that post until March 2015 when his employment was terminated after the truth about the CV fraud began to emerge.
In 2006, he told colleagues he had obtained his PhD and insisted that she should be referred to as Dr Jon Andrewes.
During his tenure, he was also appointed as a non-executive director at Torbay NHS Care Trust – a remunerated office position. He used the same false claims in his application.
In July 2015, he was appointed chair of the Royal Cornwall NHS Hospital Trust, but this position was terminated when the trust discovered the claims about his education and experience had been false.
In January 2017, Andrewes pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception under section 16 of the Theft Act 1968 (in regard to his position at St Margaret’s Hospice) and two counts of fraud under section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 (his appointments at the Torbay NHS Care Trust and the Royal Cornwall NHS Hospital Trust).
He was sentenced to two years imprisonment at Exeter Crown Court in March 2017. Judge Mercer QC remarked that for over a decade Andrewes’ “outwardly prestigious life” had been based on “a series of staggering lies”.
Following his conviction, the Crown sought a confiscation order against him. Andrewes appealed, and the Court of Appeal found in his favour, making no confiscation order.
However, the Crown appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision.
The judgment in R v Andrewes agrees that it would be disproportionate to confiscate Andrewes’ total earnings over a 10-year period, as Andrewes had still provided a service to the hospice.
Andrewes’ full net earnings during the period were £643,602.91, but the “available amount” – the amount Andrewes had access to at the time – was £96,737.24.
It found that the court should seek to confiscate the difference between the higher earnings obtained through fraud and the lower earnings that would have been obtained hence he had not been offered a CEO position.
However, it noted that its reasoning does not extend to cases where providing a service would be illegal, such as a surgeon performing an operation without the required qualifications. In that scenario, it would not be disproportionate to confiscate the individual’s full earnings.
Other employers may make claims
Alexandra Mizzi, legal director at law firm Howard Kennedy, said that more employers might seek prosecution where employees have committed CV fraud.
“Whilst prosecutions like this have previously been rare, with most employers opting for dismissal on the grounds of lying on a CV, this case could pave the way for employers taking greater action,” she said.
“Some surveys suggest CV fraud has increased during the pandemic as people turned to online ‘diploma mills’ to boost their chances of a better job and then misrepresented the qualifications they had obtained. If this case is anything to go by you not only risk losing your job if found out, but also having to pay back some of your salary and the bigger the fib, the bigger the percentage the employer can claim.”