A FORMER Oxford Biomedica worker who stole a bottle containing a cancer drug ingredient has had his sentence reduced by the Court of Appeal.

Technician Conor Quinn, 32, received a 12 month suspended sentence in July for pocketing the 500ml bottle during a shift at the firm’s Oxfordshire offices in June 2019.

To this day it remains a mystery why Quinn stole the liquid, which would lose its potency within 48 hours. At the time he was under considerable strain, as his mother was terminally-ill with cancer.

A nominal value of £50,000 was put on the stolen ‘viral vector’, calculated by dividing the value of the overall batch by the number of bottles that were filled.

However, lawyers for Quinn, of Vineyard, Abingdon, said that the financial value was nil – as the liquid was waste left over from the bigger batch and would have been destroyed had the technician not taken the bottle.

In July, Judge Nigel Daly found the defendant had breached the trust placed in him by his employers and the theft threatened to significantly harm the company’s reputation, potentially even hitting its share price.

A victim impact statement from Oxford Biomedica’s chief operating officer Nicholas Page said Quinn’s actions were ‘incredibly concerning’. A lot of the firm’s work was confidential and it would be ‘hugely damaging for any of our items to be lost or sold’.

Appearing before the Court of Appeal on Thursday morning, Peter du Feu, for Quinn, asked the judges to reduce his client’s 12 month suspended sentence.

Judge Daly had been wrong to find the theft caused ‘significant further harm’, it was claimed. Mr du Feu said: “It should bring sentence down from one which passes the custodial threshold to one which might be more fairly reflected in a community order.”

Since being sentenced, he had completed 30 out of 200 hours of community service, was studying for a new – but unspecified - line of work and delivering pizzas in the evening.

Granting the appeal, Mr Justice Turner agreed that the custodial sentence was excessive and in the circumstances of the ‘most unusual’ case Quinn’s 12 month suspended sentence could be reduced to a community order.

The sentencing guidelines for theft were based on the financial value of the item taken and of ‘little relevance’ when the judge was sentencing Quinn, he said. The justice acknowledged that the theft had the potential to cause serious reputational damage to Oxford Biomedica.

The Court of Appeal took into account Quinn’s significant mitigation, including his previous good character, mental health difficulties at the time and the delay in the case being brought to court.

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