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A corrupt former police community support officer from south-east London who conned air passengers into handing over cash is to have her baby girl taken from her in prison after being jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Alexis Scott, a mother of two young children, pocketed thousands of pounds when she told passengers leaving Gatwick Airport that they were carrying too much cash and ordered them to hand it over.
The scam was uncovered when returning passengers began asking airport officials for their money back.
Scott had been remanded in custody in a mother and baby unit with her young daughter since being convicted at Canterbury Crown Court in July.
But sentencing Scott on Thursday, judge James Mahoney said any jail term exceeding three years would see the mother and daughter split up.
Sentencing a sobbing Scott, of Plumstead, the judge described the difficultly in striking a balance between public interest and what was best for the family.
He said: "I have human feelings, I am a father. If it (the sentence) is more than three years the child is going to be taken from the mother. The judicial duty doesn't come harder.''
Members of Scott's family broke down and left the courtroom wailing in distress as the judge handed down a sentence of six-and-a-half years for misconduct in a public office, and two-and-a-half-year terms for each of the six counts of theft, to run concurrently.
The judge also said Scott's actions damaged the reputation of the police force and of this country.
He said: "It was over a limited time that you did this but it was bold, persistent, systematic, planned and subtle. You preyed on [victims'] lack of sophistication and panic.
"This is a case about an official PCSO using her uniform and her status to commit serious criminal offences herself.
"It is an exceptional and very unusual case. The implication is upon the police, the public trust and the international reputation of this country.
"People from other parts of the world find themselves being fleeced by a police officer. If that's the impression that people leaving this country go away with then that's a very serious matter.''
Scott was arrested in May last year on suspicion of stealing more than £15,000 from seven victims. She was convicted in July of six offences of theft and one of misconduct in public office following a three-week trial.
Scott was cleared by a jury of one count of theft. Her victims lost £13,500 in total, money which has now been paid back by Sussex Police.
Defending, Alexia Power said character references spoke of her client as a "warm, kind-hearted woman who would do anything for others''.
Scott said being in prison with her baby - who was conceived before being charged - had "kept [her] going''.
Miss Power said: "The overwhelming picture from these references is that Miss Scott acted wholly out of character. She has brought up a young child, struggling with debt.''
The judge ordered Scott, who has no savings, to pay a nominal fee of £1. It means the full amount can be recovered as and when she accumulates it.
Judge Mahoney also praised members of the investigation team at Sussex Police for their work.
Following the verdict, Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said Scott had fallen woefully short of the "highest personal and professional standards'' expected by Sussex Police, abusing the trust the force had placed in her and the trust of the public.
After internal disciplinary proceedings in July last year Scott was dismissed from her job, which pays a basic salary between £18,500 and just over £20,000 a year.
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