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Ex-vicar guilty of stealing funds

23 March 2011

A FORMER vicar in the Church of England has pleaded guilty to stealing more than £14,000 in money paid to him in fees for weddings and funerals, writes Nigel Burnham.

Oldham Magistrates Court heard that Vaughan Leonard, aged 59, began taking the money after he became Vicar of St Thomas’s, Leesfield, in Oldham, Greater Manchester, in June 2006.

The matter came to light after Mr Leonard, now of Middleton, Greater Manchester, left the parish in 2009, and officials asked for the fees that should have been passed on. When he said that he did not have the money, the police were called in.

Mr Leonard pleaded guilty to two charges of theft from the diocese of Manchester. The court heard how he took £7484 of funeral fees, and £6859 paid to him for reading marriage banns.

A spokesman for the diocese said: “We expect our clergy to be honest in their dealings with money, and it is highly unusual for this trust to be broken.” Mr Leonard has been deprived of his benefice. He was previously a naval officer and served in the Falklands conflict. He will be sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court, in Manchester, on 5 April.

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