A 30-year-old man has been slapped with a community order after he attempted to blag a free law degree from Durham University by pretending to be a former law student who had undergone a sex change.

Nathan Hogg, from Blyth, Northumberland, is said to have posed as a woman who had been awarded a law degree by Durham Uni and falsely claimed she was undergoing gender reassignment surgery. As a result of this completely made-up life-altering event, Hogg requested that the Russell Group uni provide a new degree certificate to reflect her new, male name — Nathan Hogg.

The Chronicle Live reports that Hogg, who sourced the woman’s details from LinkedIn, was suffering from depression and had attempted the scam in a bid to make himself “feel better”.

“The victim is a young lady, a trainee solicitor. She graduated with a good degree in law from Durham University”, prosecutor James Long told South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court. “The university was contacted by the defendant in December last year purporting to be [the woman], using an email address”.

The court heard how a staff member at Durham Uni responded to Hogg, again via email, requesting the woman’s existing degree certificate. He provided what was described as a “very convincing document” after initially claiming to have lost the certificate.

“I don’t know the circumstances in which this document was created. It appears to be witnessed by two apparent witnesses from different addresses in the Jesmond area”, Long added.

The fraud only came to light when the victim happened to contact the university for a reference and confirmed she was not trying to change her name. It was at this point the police became involved, according to the report.
In a statement to the court, the woman, who isn’t named, explained that she carried out an internet search and discovered a LinkedIn profile in the name of Nathan Hogg which bore her exact qualifications, including her undergraduate degree and A-Level results.

She said: “The whole matter has caused me to feel violated and upset that someone has purported to be me.”

Paul Dunn, representing Hogg, said the defendant had not used the woman’s information or gained financially from his actions. He continued: “He told police ‘I was depressed at the time and in a bad way. I contacted the university with an idea to get a degree to make me feel better about myself. I did not use it, I threw it in the bin.’”

Hogg, who pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by false representation, received a 12-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity programme. He was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to the victim.

Professor Alan Houston, vice-provost for education at Durham University, said:

“We promptly informed the police upon becoming aware of this matter. We have since reviewed our procedures for issuing replacement degree documents and now require additional confirmation of identity.”

Source: Legal Cheek

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