Senior member of animal cruelty charity jailed for £15,000 fraud
A FORMER senior member of an animal rights lobby group has been jailed for spending £15,000 pounds of the charity's money on himself.
Steve Taylor, the ex-head of campaigns and communications at the League Against Cruel Sports, used his company credit card to pay for trips and accommodation, for food and online shopping.
He even used it to pay for an Apple iPad as a present for the outgoing chief executive Doug Batchelor, pocketing the cash from a collection raised by colleagues to buy the leaving gift.
Taylor, of Tideford, South East Cornwall, who is reportedly the nephew of former Cabinet Minister Lord Clark of Windermere, was locked away for 16 months by a judge who described his fraud as "a serious breach of trust".
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He admitted the offence. His lawyer said the gay defendant and his florist partner were being evicted from their cottage on a private estate partly due to the landlord's reaction to the negative publicity.
Taylor, 36, had previous convictions and had served a prison sentence for dishonesty before.
Nicholas Bull, prosecuting, said: "He was in a senior position with a high degree of autonomy. His earnings were £41,000 pounds per year.
"There was a policy that company credit cards were not used for personal expenses and to all intents and purposes he appeared to be scrupulous."
Staff at the League became aware of the credit card being used to make cash withdrawals and Taylor was warned about doing so.
Despite that the worker, who was involved in high-profile actions and in direct lobbying of MPs and other leading figures, continued in what was called "systematic purchases of goods".
Between January 2, 2010 and October 29, 2011, he made 333 separate transactions.
"These were both on the defendant's company credit card and also other persons', from whom he borrowed credit cards."
The total spend was £14,925.88 pounds.
"They were used to pay for gifts, food, travel, hotels and internet purchases," said Mr Bull.
The highest payment was £488 pounds, the lowest a mere 48p.
The prosecutor said: "One of the items purchased was the outgoing chief executive's leaving present. It was the defendant's responsibility for gathering people's money. He paid for it with the company credit card and pocketed the money."
Mr Bull revealed that in November 1996 Taylor was convicted of obtaining property by deception, theft, and failing to surrender. In 1998, at Bradford Crown Court, he was jailed for 12 months for obtaining property by deception and forgery, relating to a £12,000 pounds fraud from his then employer.
Adrian Lovett, defending Taylor, said in mitigation that his client did suffer some mental health issues and as far back as 1996 he tried to commit suicide.
Of the latest conviction, he said: "He doesn't understand why he did it."
He said his client had owned up to a wrongful mileage claim and that had brought attention on him and prompted an investigation.
"There's no doubt he toed a fine line, which on numerous occasions crossed the line," said Mr Lovett.
Judge Christopher Critchlow, hearing the case at Guildford Crown Court, told Taylor: "This was a serious breach of trust. I'm sure you realise that. It appears you don't understand why you have done this.
He added: "Those who donate to charities expect the money to go to the charity in question and not the employees."
He said he would not make an order for compensation to be paid as he was told Taylor had no means, but he warned: "There may be, of course, an application in another court, in the civil jurisdiction."