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£73,000 confiscated from convicted ex-bank manager

Sarah Gibbs has been ordered to repay £73,000 Credit: Sussex Police

A convicted West Sussex ex-bank manager has been ordered to repay £73,000 after being convicted of stealing from customer accounts.

At Brighton Crown Court on Thursday 29 January, Sarah Gibbs, 33, of Ontario Gardens, Worthing, who had worked for HSBC since 1999 and as a branch manager for several HSBC branches in Sussex from April 2005 to April 2011, was given a Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) for £73,120, having stolen from customers' accounts and attempting to cover her tracks by falsifying internal bank records and transferring monies from branch internal accounts.

Irregularities in branch banking records at Goring-by-Sea, Shoreham-by-Sea and Hove were spotted by an HSBC internal audit which was prompted by a query from an HSBC customer in 2011 enquiring about the status of investments allegedly made by Mrs.Gibbs on their behalf. It transpired that the monies had not been invested but had been taken by Mrs. Gibbs and used for her own benefit. Amongst those customers whose accounts were accessed by Gibbs were several elderly people and even her own friends.

Brighton detectives, assisted by expert financial investigators from the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit, followed up information provided by the HSBC Bank Fraud Investigations Team. The investigators analysed the transactions on more than 50 bank accounts operated by Gibbs and her husband through which the funds from the theft had been laundered. Monies were mixed with modest legitimate earnings for a variety of activities including contributing to the deposit for a house purchase (£23,000), deposits for new cars (£15,000), paying deposits for a wedding (£3,500), the care and stabling of a pony (£35,000), several holidays (£7,500), trips to the Rendezvous Casino in Brighton and online gambling (£30,000).

Gibbs was charged in August 2012 with false accounting and theft by employee to the value of £275,400.81.

Sarah Gibbs pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment in May 2014. The Confiscation Order made on 29 January this year followed a financial investigation as a result of which the Court declared that she had benefited from her criminal conduct by £281,836.03 and that her available assets amounted to £73,120 which were ordered to be confiscated and paid over to the Court within six months, all of which will be paid in compensation to HSBC. Gibbs will face a further 12 months imprisonment if she does not pay.

HSBC have already reimbursed any losses to their account holders including any lost interest, and in civil proceedings they have recouped her staff pension.

"Whenever someone has profited from their crime we will pursue them to recover those proceeds, firstly to ensure that victims are compensated, and secondly to ensure that the criminal will not continue to enjoy the benefit of their criminality."

– Detective Inspector Gill Sole of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit

New unit to help Britain 'fight in the information age'

A new Army unit which will use psychology and social media to help Britain "fight in the information age" will be created.

The 77th Brigade will start life in April in Hermitage in Berkshire and comprise more than 40% of reserves as well as regulars from all three services to help defence forces "operate smarter", the Ministry of Defence said.

Modelled on the Chindits, a specialist unit which fought in Burma during the Second World War, the new unit's focus will be on "unconventional" non-lethal, non-military methods such as "shaping behaviours through the use of dynamic narratives", an Army spokesman said.

The development is part of a major restructuring of the military under the Army 2020 plan, which will see the military scale down to around 82,000 regular troops in the next five years.

The spokesman said: the brigade "is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare".

"It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent and it draws heavily on important lessons from our commitments to operations in Afghanistan amongst others."

The brigade will be based at Hermitage, Berkshire, with detachments at other MoD sites, and will operate across the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, as well as training and working with other nations and across UK government departments.

It will build on "the spirit of innovation and offensive spirit of the men and women" who served in the Chindits between 1942 and 1945.<

In 1943 the elite guerilla unit deployed deep behind enemy lines to fight in Japanese-occupied Burma with a mission to disrupt communications and supply routes fuelling the Japanese war effort.<

The Chindits were named after the Chinthe - fierce lion-like creatures that stood guard at every Burmese temple - and the 77th Brigade's cap badge will feature the mythical animal, according to reports.

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Missing trawler search called off

The search for a missing Belgian-flagged trawler which vanished in the English Channel have been called off.

The 130ft-long vessel disappeared with its four-strong crew on board amid rough seas in the Dover Strait on Wednesday.

A major Anglo-French air-sea operation was launched involving RNLI lifeboats, an RAF helicopter and a French fixed-wing aircraft. Their efforts led to the discovery on Thursday of two bodies on the French side of the Channel, north-west of Boulogne.

Their two crew-mates remain unaccounted for. None of the four people on board the boat were British.

"The French have responsibility for the search and rescue but they are not carrying out any search, and it's unlikely they will do so unless any evidence comes to light. Dover Coastguard continues to make their usual broadcasts to ships asking them to look out for any wreckage or pollution."

– A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)

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Woman dies in house fire in Andover

A woman has died in a house fire in Andover.

Fire crews were mobilised to Pen Close at 06:15 this morning after reports of a fire.

Crews were on scene quickly and gained access to the property. They worked hard to tackle the fire wearing four sets of breathing apparatus. They used two jets and two hose reels to extinguish the fire which had started in the bedroom.

Sadly, one elderly female died at the scene.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage. A joint investigation with Hampshire Constabulary will commence today to determine what happened.

Smoke alarms can give you those precious few minutes of warning which could help you and your family to get out safely. For advice on fitting and maintaining smoke alarms visit www.hantsfire.gov.uk .

Man jailed for child sex offences

A New Ash Green man who committed a catalogue of child sex offences has been jailed for 25 years and two months.

Ashley Wright, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court after pleading guilty to 12 counts of rape and a further nine sexual offences, all of which took place between 2011 and 2014.

Ashley Wright has been sentenced to 25 years in prison Credit: Kent Police

Wright, 29, formerly of Millfield, New Ash Green targeted two girls, both who were aged under 13 at the time of the offences.

He committed the crimes in places including the inside of his car and a van.

On one occasion he threatened one of his victims that if she didn’t do as she was told he would ‘take her to a place where there were lots of men’. Wright also forced his victims to watch pornography on his laptop and mobile phone.

He was initially arrested by Kent Police in the Ilford area on 7 March 2014.

Wright later pleaded guilty at court to 21 separate counts as follows: 12 counts of rape of a child aged under 13; three counts of sexual assault of a child aged under 13; two counts of causing or enticing a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity; one count of causing child pornography; and three counts of possessing indecent images of children.

Wright was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on 30 January and imprisoned for a total of 25 years and two months.

"Wright gained the trust of his victims, which he then used to his advantage to obtain his own depraved sexual gratification. He deliberately instilled fear into his victims and the impact of his depravity will, sadly, no doubt be felt for many years to come. I would like to pay tribute to both his victims and also their families. It is thanks to their tremendous strength and courage that Wright has been brought to justice and will now thankfully spend a very long time behind bars."

– Detective Constable Claire Bassett, of Kent Police’s Public Protection Department
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