Church treasurer's jail threat

A SUFFOLK church treasurer has been warned he faces prison after defrauding his parish of substantial funds.Peter Bentley, 66, of Monks Eleigh, was a member of St Peter's Parochial Church Council for ten years before police were called in to investigate his book keeping.

A SUFFOLK church treasurer has been warned he faces prison after defrauding his parish of substantial funds.

Peter Bentley, 66, of Monks Eleigh, was a member of St Peter's Parochial Church Council for ten years before police were called in to investigate his book keeping.

Appearing before Bury St Edmunds Crown Court yesterday , Bentley admitted two false accounting charges and a further two counts of obtaining money transfers by deception.

The guilty pleas were first reported on the Evening Star's website www.eveningstar.co.uk yesterday afternoon.


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Judge Peter Thompson ordered that eight similar charges would lie on file.

Ian James, prosecuting, said the two counts of obtaining money transfers by deception related to sums of £207.44 and £188.57, and happened in May 2001 and July 2001 respectively.

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"It is quite plain that the accounts, which Mr Bentley oversaw as treasurer, were kept in something of a shambolic manner," he said.

"But the crown would not be satisfied for him to shelter behind the erratic nature of the account keeping.

"Our view is that justice is met now Mr Bentley has accepted that, against this rather unhappy background, he has actively behaved in a dishonest fashion."

Steven Dyble, for Bentley, told Judge Thompson the sums had now been paid back.

"The situation is a breach of trust, and the court will have a serious view of this offending. My application is for a pre-sentence report on this 66-year-old man who has now lost his reputation for having a good character."

Judge Peter Thompson told Bentley: "These are breaches of trust. They are not trivial cases, they are serious, and that means when you are sentenced you may go to prison."

Sentencing was adjourned until the week beginning November 11.

After the hearing, diocesan communications director Nick Clarke said: "The congregation and community of Monks Eleigh were shocked by the news of Mr Bentley's crimes.

"The position of church treasurer is one of trust. When suspicions were first raised, the church went straight to the police asking they investigate.

"The church at Monks Eleigh is now focusing on the future, and is keen to put this episode behind them.

"Suffolk's parishes have been reminded of the need to follow principles of good practice, that two people should count the collection after the service, and that accounts are examined and audited by suitably qualified people as part of the monitoring process."

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