A former hospital trust Chief Executive has been handed a 16-month suspended jail sentence.
Paula Vasco-Knight, formerly the head of South Devon Foundation Trust, pleaded guilty to fraudulently paying her husband in excess of £11,000.
She was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court.
Her husband had also pleaded guilty to fraud, and was given a 10-month suspended sentence, with both jail terms suspended for two years.
Vasco-Knight was ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service, with her husband being handed a 150-hour community service programme.
In December 2012, Vasco-Knight had been awarded a £10,000 bursary for leadership development.
She later submitted an invoice for £11,072 to produce a leadership document, later authorising the NHS to pay her husband’s company Thinking Caps for the document.
Not only was this document never produced, but she also failed to declare her interest in her husband’s company.
This is a statutory aspect of the financial instructions of the NHS.
Both had initially pleaded not guilty, but changed their pleas after the trial commenced in January.
Passing sentence, the judge told Ms Vasco-Knight that she had abused her privileged position.
“One cannot imagine a more serious abuse of trust and responsibility than your part. You were on a six figure salary and you arranged for your husband to benefit from a contract of £11,000, money from an NHS budget we all know is under severe pressure for resources. [You] have fallen a long way from what was expected of you professionally and personally and that is your own fault.”
Lloyd Morgan, defending Vasco-Knight, commented on the character and successful career of the former Chief Executive.
“She has risen a long way from humble beginnings, overcome many difficulties, both professionally and personally, to reach dizzying heights – more than she would ever have expected – and this is a fall of very great magnitude. She fraudulently and dishonestly went ahead and arranged the payment of this invoice and it is something she bitterly regrets and will regret for the rest of her life.”
Morgan went on to explain that Vasco-Knight was suffering from mental health difficulties, signed off work on sickness disability, and had minimal career prospects.
“It is her own fault. It has all gone up in smoke and something to which she will never be able to return. It is difficult to imagine a more dramatic fall from grace than this,” Morgan asserted.
Vasco-Knight had been appointed chief executive of South Devon Healthcare FT in 2008.