Ex-councillor could face jail over fraud

Richard Milner (s)
Richard Milner (s)

An ex-councillor who helped himself to at least £12,500 from a rugby league club while he was the chairman could be facing jail.

Richard Daniel Milner (35) left West Craven Warriors in Barnoldswick “virtually penniless”, struggling to survive and forced to raise funds to keep going.

He abused his position at the club over almost three years, when he was responsible for it’s finances, Burnley magistrates heard.

The hearing was told Milner paid himself cheques from the organisation’s coffers and the total he took included a £10,000 lottery grant.

Milner, of Lower West Avenue, Barnoldswick, admitted six allegations of fraud by abuse of position, involving £2,000 on or about June 20th, 2011, £3,850 on or about December 16th, 2011, £400 on or about January 5th, 2012, £1,500 on or about December 18th, 2012, £800 on or about June 25th, 2013, and £345 on or about March 14th, 2014 and one count of theft on or between June 19th, 2011 and March 15th, 2014.

The defendant, who had no previous convictions, will be sentenced at Burnley Crown Court, on August 22nd, after the bench said their sentencing powers were not adequate.

Prosecutor Mr Andrew Robinson said Milner was chairman at the club and committed the breach of trust between 2011 and 2014.

Mr Robinson said it seemed that the account cheque book for the club was controlled by means of dual signature. The lady who was the treasurer was treasurer in name only and she used to sign the blank cheques. The defendant was responsible for the finances of the club.

The offences only came to light in 2015 when Milner’s former partner was going though some accounts paperwork and found details which caused her to have suspicions raised about where money had come from. She reported it to the club and then the police. Mr Robinson continued: “When the accounts were examined, it was discovered various amounts of cheques had been issued.

“The defendant had paid money to himself and not acted in the interests of his club.”

The prosecutor said the club would say the total amount missing was £16,392.

“He continued: “The defendant doesn’t accept that full amount. He has pleaded guilty on the basis he took £12,525 for his own personal use.” Mr Robinson said in a victim impact statement, the club said £10,000 of the money was a lottery grant.

As a result of losing the money, the club was put in financial difficulties and was dragged into about £4,000 debt.

It was receiving legal demands and held fund raising events so it could carry on. The committee member who made the statement to police said: “At one point we were not sure we could survive.”