THE man brought in to create a "new start" for the charitable
trust behind an Anglican religious order, after a former trustee
pleaded guilty to defrauding it 18 months ago, has himself now been
sentenced after he, too, admitted defrauding the charity.
In July 2012, Brother James Simon, under his lay name of Dr
Morley Stuart, was given a conditional discharge by Westminster
magistrates after he admitted stealing £3750 from the Fellowship of
St John the Evangelist (UK) Trust Association (News, 17
August 2012). The trust oversees the Society of Mission Priests
of St John the Evangelist, known as the Cowley Fathers.
The Revd Charles Card-Reynolds, who chairs the trust, said at
the time that a new executive officer, Geoff Hammond, of
Sollershott East, in Letchworth Garden City, marked "a new start
for the trust". But now Mr Hammond has admitted stealing almost
£100,000 from the charity.
He was sentenced to 12 months at Southwark Crown Court.
In a statement, the trustees said that the missing funds were
identified as a result of "internal financial controls" that had
been put in place after the earlier fraud. Mr Hammond has since
repaid the money to the Trust, together with its costs.
"It is always sad when someone feels that stealing and the
associated deception offers them the chance of financial
redemption," the Trust said, in a written response to the
Church Times. "Inevitably, this is illusory and the
consequences have to be faced."
Figures lodged with the Charity Commission show that, in the
four years from 2008, the charity spent more than half a million
pounds more than it had received in income. Its 2012 accounts have
not been filed, and are three months' overdue.
The trustees say that the theft has caused "minimal disruption",
and that after the Fathers' Westminster monastery, St Edward's
House, was sold to Westminster School in May 2012, their mission
and education work - including parish development, the creation of
the Father Benson Scholarship, and acting as benefactor for
pastoral placement schemes and clergy sabbaticals - "continues as
before but now on a larger scale for the sake of the Kingdom of
The Society was founded by Richard Meux Benson in Cowley,
Oxford, in 1866. St Stephen's House, an Anglican theological
college at the University of Oxford, has historical ties with the
trust, but is a separate organisation.
The Charity Commission said that after the charity sent a
"serious incident report", it met the trustees and advisers to give
the charity a "comprehensive action-plan."
"The charity was given until 1 March 2014 to satisfy us on
issues regarding this incident and the charity's general
governance," a spokesperson said. "They have been informed that if
we are not satisfied with the actions they take then we may use our
powers under the Charities Act 2011 to further investigate the