A FORMER Accrington hairdresser who fraudulently obtained £900,000 to buy two seaside homes has had her jail sentence slashed by two-thirds in London’s Appeal Court.
Debra Anne Clarkson, a 46-year-old mother-of-two, was jailed for 18 months in June this year after she was convicted of securing re-mortgages for £600,000 and £304,000 from the Halifax and Royal Bank of Scotland in 2003 for properties in West Beach and Clifton Drive, Lytham St Annes.
The Observer can exclusively reveal that Clarkson, who ran a salon in Water Street, will be the subject of a confiscation hearing when she is released to establish how much of the money she will have to repay. If she defaults on any repayments she could face going back to prison.
Clarkson, who was convicted by a jury at Preston Crown Court of two counts of obtaining services by deception, falsely claimed to be earning £250,000 a year on the mortgage applications, when in truth was pulling in just £4,000.
Lord Justice Gage, who cut her sentence to six months, but upheld her convictions, said Clarkson was probably under her husband Mark’s influence when she signed the applications.
She was only prosecuted as a spin-off to a Customs investigation of her undischarged bankrupt husband’s suspected links to drug-dealing, which were never proved.
Lord Justice Gage, sitting with Mr Justice Teare and Judge John Rogers, said Clarkson had given birth to a baby daughter weeks before she signed the documents that proved her undoing.
She claimed to be fundamentally naive and to have signed the documents without reading the contents because she trusted her husband who dealt with all the family’s financial dealings, the court heard.
But Lord Justice Gage ruled the trial judge was right to allow the case against Clarkson to proceed, adding that she was the individual responsible for the bridging loans that helped secure the two properties.
"The fact is that she signed documents involving very large sums," said the judge.
"In these documents there was information which was accepted to be false; quite clearly there was a case for her to answer."
The judge dismissed her conviction appeal but cut the 18-month sentence after accepting that she was influenced by her husband.
Clarkson’s fraud had left no victims, he said, while she was also a mother of two children with an impeccable past behind her.
She had a tragic background, the court heard, having been orphaned in her teens when her family was wiped out in an air crash.
The judge concluded: "She must have been under the influence of her husband who has not been prosecuted in respect of this matter, for reasons which are not clear."