Thu, 09 May 2019
A “DESPICABLE” charity treasurer, who stole more than £800,000 in donations, has been jailed for five years.
Amanda Bishop pocketed money raised from the proceeds of raffle ticket sales from lavish gala dinners she helped organise.
These dinners were attended by international music superstars, including Kylie Minogue, Nile Rodgers, Tom Jones, Olly Murs and Craig David.
The 54-year-old had volunteered for the Thames Valley branch of GroceryAid for 23 years and had risen to treasurer through her “entrepreneurial zeal”, Reading Crown Court heard yesterday (Wednesday).
Bishop, of Damson Drive, Mortimer, had taken the money raised from the sale of the £20 tickets home and said she would pay it into the charity’s funds – but on seven occasions she kept most of the money for herself.
Kirsty Allman, prosecuting, said: “This defendant... was a trusted and respected volunteer, who did not get paid for her time, but on occasions was allowed to claim expenses.
“She had volunteered for 23 years, and was inducted into the GroceryAid hall of fame, recognising her 10 years’ service.
“At the beginning of 2017, Stephen Barnes was appointed as chief executive officer and began to focus on each branch to see where he could assist volunteers.
“He became concerned at unexpected resistance he received from Amanda Bishop and Gordon Parris, the chairman at the time.”
Mr Barnes investigated and discovered discrepancies in the accounts, which triggered an investigation, at which point Bishop and Mr Parris resigned.
Bishop came to see Mr Barnes in person and made admissions that she had taken the money.
Investigators found she had been Googling ‘do all fraud cases get prosecuted?’ and ‘does a charity have to report staff fraud?’, the court heard.
Ms Allman said Bishop had deposited a number of cheques, either directly into her bank account or collected in cash.
She added: “Investigators did not identify any evidence to say Mr Parris was involved.”
Bishop had spent money on trips to Spain, America and Canada, and had gone to watch Arsenal play in Madrid during this time.
Bishop admitted dishonestly abusing her position, intending thereby to make a gain for herself and seven charges of theft.
All the offences were committed between October 2012 and June last year.
Ian Hope, defending, said: “It’s far from a pretty picture that appears in court.
“When she started working for the Thames Valley branch, it was not the highest earner.
“The second year she ran the gala dinner, it raised a quarter-of-a-million pounds.
“She was the driving force behind that and the people who came to the gala dinner were in fact international superstars.
“Her entrepreneurial zeal has itself benefited society in a very considerable way.”
Bishop kept her head down throughout the hearing, only standing so judge Kirsty Real could deliver a sentence of five years imprisonment, half of which she will serve on licence.
Mr Barnes said: “We will not allow the despicable actions of one individual to divert the charity further from its good work.”
The total amount Bishop stole from the charity was £844,619.