Former boss of local brewery escapes prison ‘by a whisker’
THE founder and former managing director of the White Rock Brewery escaped prison ‘by a whisker’ when he appeared in the Royal Court for sentencing on a charge of fraud.
Ross Gledhill, 33, had pleaded guilty to dishonestly making false representations to the Little Big Hotel Group when selling the brewery, in order to make financial gain for himself. The court heard that in June 2020 a deal was struck under which the Little Big group was to buy 50% of Gledhill’s shares at a cost of £80,000.
Gledhill had told them that he owned all of the shares in the brewery's holding company, but Crown Advocate Will Giles, prosecuting, said that at the time he actually had only 65%, with the remainder being owned by another company, RAS Group Ltd.
Gledhill also told the group that there were only two outstanding loans and that the brewing equipment, valued at about £130,000, belonged to him. However, the equipment was subject of an ongoing civil dispute over its ownership, said Crown Advocate Giles. It was after the transfer of funds for the shares that it also emerged that there were more than just two loans outstanding. In addition, changes had been made to the White Rock accounts which had led to some details being deleted that amounted to £248,000 worth of financial inaccuracies.
Gledhill later said he had told an employee to ‘tidy up’ the accounts but had not advocated deleting information. Some money had been repaid to LBH, leaving an outstanding £76,500 and this was requested in compensation.
For the defence, Advocate Chris Green provided several references of good character to the court and said that the offence was not a sophisticated one. But when he said that Gledhill accepted not being clear or specific enough during negotiations, he was challenged by Judge Catherine Fooks who said that that would have amounted to negligence, not deliberate fraud, and Gledhill had accepted the charge as put.
Advocate Green agreed: ‘In general, we accept dishonesty,’ he said.
While accepting the custody threshold had been passed, he urged the court to consider leniency, citing Gledhill’s family commitments to his wife, who was expecting their second child next year.
In delivering the court’s sentence, Judge Fooks said Gledhill had continued not to admit his responsibility and culpability and even those who had written letters of reference had not faced his dishonesty.
He had expressed no remorse until the day of his sentencing, and even then had not said sorry for his conduct but at how things had turned out. But given the fact that he was a person of previous good character and the likely difficulties his family would face were he imprisoned, the court had decided to impose a Community Service Order.
‘You have come within a whisker of going to prison,’ said the judge.
Gledhill was given 240 hours of community service as a direct alternative to 18 months in prison. A compensation order for £76,500 was also made.