Trustee who took £14,000 from charity's account is jailed for 18 months

Martin Lawley pleaded guilty to defrauding the now defunct Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Fund, and the Charity Commission has published a report on the case

Martin Lawley
Martin Lawley

Martin Lawley of Rhyl in Wales, a trustee of a now defunct children’s cancer charity who took £14,000 from the charity’s bank account, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud.

According to an operational compliance report published yesterday by the Charity Commission, the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Fund was registered with the commission in March 2011.

The report says the regulator first contacted the charity after having been made aware that it had entered into an agreement with a commercial clothing company.

The commission then opened an operations monitoring case on the charity, but the regulator’s attempts to meet its trustees were thwarted on three occasions by last-minute cancellations, the report says.

An inspection of the charity’s bank statements showed payments of more than £1,800 to one of the trustees, expenditure for items that the report says "did not appear to be in furtherance of the charity’s objects, such as payments for dental treatment and payments to a travel agency", and £7,200 that was withdrawn in cash.

The report says that Lawley told the commission that the withdrawn cash was used to buy toys and games to be distributed to hospitals, but that these had then been damaged in flooding, as were the charity’s invoices and receipts.

The commission found that this was untrue. The report says the commission established that Lawley had in effect been in sole control of the charity, using the names of relatives as other trustees without their knowledge.

Lawley repaid £14,000 to the charity, but the commission referred the case to the police in March 2013 and removed the charity from the register of charities in May 2013. It later emerged that Lawley once again withdrew that money from the charity’s bank accounts, two months after the police were called.

In October, Lawley admitted two counts of fraud by abuse of position, and his wife Angela admitted aiding and abetting fraud by abuse of position at Caernarfon County Court. On 22 October he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. His wife received a suspended sentence.

The commission’s report says it is engaging with the trustees of new charities that have entered into such commercial agreements.

The report says: "Our case work has shown that issues with such contracts often arise because trustees are not properly monitoring and managing the partnership and/or do not have correct policies and procedures in place."

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