Former hospice charity chief faces jail after pleading guilty to fraud

Graham Leggatt-Chidgey, 62, ran Stockton-on-Tees-based Butterwick Hospice Care until April last year

The former chief executive of one of the largest charities in the north east of England is facing jail after the charity discovered a gap of more than £125,000 in its finances.

Graham Leggatt-Chidgey, 62, was in charge of Butterwick Hospice Care for about two decades until April last year.

The charity, which is based in Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, employs 160 staff and had income of £5m in the financial year ending 31 March 2017.

Leggatt-Chidgey, of Rokeby, Barnard Castle, Teesside, had faced two charges of fraud – including one of £127,000 over almost eight years between 2009 and March last year – and one of theft, all of which he denied.

But before standing trial at Teesside Crown Court, he changed his plea to guilty of dishonestly making false representations to gain an unspecified sum.

He will be sentenced on 11 June. The charity said Judge Sean Morris, who granted him bail, had told him to expect a custodial sentence.

Debbie Jones, who succeeded Leggatt-Chidgey as chief executive, said the charity had found a gap of £127,000 in its finances, and estimated that it had since lost donations worth about £100,000 because of negative publicity for the charity.

Jones added that some shop staff had suffered personal abuse and staff morale had suffered.

"People are still in shock," she told Third Sector. "We will review all our policies and procedures relating to finance to make sure this can't happen again."

Jones said the charity had filed a serious incident report with the Charity Commission.

Mary Butterwick, who died in 2015, founded the charity in 1984. It has three hospices and also provides day care.

Judith Hunter, chair of the charity, said in a statement: "The past year has been devastating for the Butterwick Hospice and we have been the victims in this terrible crime. I am pleased that justice has been done.

"I understand that people’s confidence in the organisation has been knocked, but it is very important for the local community to realise that the hospice is still here to help them when they need it most.

"As a board of trustees we have learnt many lessons over the past year and I would like to assure people that systems have been reviewed and that the organisation is going from strength to strength under new leadership."

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