Charity collector jailed for stealing thousands raised to help injured servicemen

Thomas Richards with Help for Heroes collecting tins

Thomas Richards with Help for Heroes collecting tins

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Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter. Call me on (01865) 425373

VETERANS have condemned a “despicable” thief who stole thousands of pounds of donations intended for servicemen wounded in the line of duty.

Thomas Richards, of Lowell Place, Witney, has been jailed for 12 months after he was caught collecting £2,000 in Oxford meant for Help for Heroes and keeping it for himself.

The 27-year-old, whose actions were branded “unforgivable” by a Help for Heroes spokes-man, spent the cash on booze, betting shops and nights in the Oxford Spires Four Pillars Hotel.

At Oxford Crown Court yesterday it was revealed Richards has 45 previous convictions for 83 offences, prompting Judge Mary Jane Mowat to say he should not have been allowed to collect for the charity.

She told him: “The truth of the matter is that you have been a life-long offender – somebody who should never have been let loose with a collection tin.”

The judge described the Help for Heroes vetting process, which does not require a CRB check, as “ramshackle” but said she understood with up to 400 people signing up every week proper vetting was not possible.

In January 2011 Richards registered to became a street collector with the charity and over the next two months he spent most of the money he collected on himself.

He raised money for a charity bike ride from Cape Wrath in Scotland to Land’s End, which was described by Judge Mowat as “fanciful”, and shelled out more than £1,000 for a new bike and cycle accessories.

Richards even told a member of the public he was on compassionate leave from the Army after serving in “the Far East”, which was a lie.

He was caught out when Pc Steven Higa saw him collecting in Cornmarket Street, Oxford, and became suspicious because he knew his record, the court heard.

Pc Higa said: “The vast majority of the collectors are trustworthy and pass the money on, it is just a very small minority who take advantage of the goodwill and generosity of the public.”

Richard Lister, defending, said Richards was not “somebody who thinks through the consequences of his actions” and was now disgusted with what he had done.

Speaking after the hearing, Oxfordshire Royal British Legion chairman Jim Lewendon said: “Making money out of other people’s misery is despicable. It’s an insult to our heroes.

“Help for Heroes mostly helps youngsters and their families who are suffering and this low life has tried to make money out of that.”

He added: “I do not think a year in prison is deterrent enough.”

Corporal Tom Neathway, who lost both legs and an arm in a Taliban bomb blast, said: “It is totally disrespectful. Help for Heroes was set up to help wounded soldiers. He has not shown respect for us, fighting for our country.”

Help for Heroes spokesman David Fraser added: “It is unforgivable that someone might attempt to gain personally from donations given generously by the public to support the wounded.

“Anyone authorised by Help for Heroes to do a street collection must carry their fundraising certificate and each collection is followed up by our dedicated team.

“Our rigorous processes ensure that if someone attempts to defraud that charity, we catch them, report them to the police and push for prosecution. This one incident undermines the thousands of generous and committed fundraisers across the UK.”

HELP FOR HEROES

Help for Heroes was launched in 2007 to raise money for British servicemen and women wounded in the line of duty.

It tries to pay for better facilities and support services to help those injured and their families, as well as supporting other charities.

Collectors have to register with Help for Heroes, providing personal details and the time and location they will be fundraising for the charity. They then receive official paperwork and a sealed collection tin.

If the money received by Help for Heroes is less than expected given the time and location or the collection tin is broken, the charity will investigate.

Although Help for Heroes would not discuss specific details of investigations, the charity has in house fraud investigators and pro bono lawyers tackling the problem. Charities do not obtain CRB checks of collectors due to the cost.

Comments (6)

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2:29pm Wed 3 Apr 13

amber leaf says...

this guy is the biggest attention seeker in Oxfordshire he is forever in the papers for one thing or the other but this is shocking !!!! what a foolish thing to do !!! 12 mouths is a bit of a light sentence really should have got 3-4 minimum !!! this is the highest level of disrespect i think u can get for the armed forces who we all know do a extremely difficult job .... shame on u !!!!!
this guy is the biggest attention seeker in Oxfordshire he is forever in the papers for one thing or the other but this is shocking !!!! what a foolish thing to do !!! 12 mouths is a bit of a light sentence really should have got 3-4 minimum !!! this is the highest level of disrespect i think u can get for the armed forces who we all know do a extremely difficult job .... shame on u !!!!! amber leaf
  • Score: 0

5:43pm Wed 3 Apr 13

wend says...

I gave money to that ba5trd. Thought he was a bit too pushy to be genuine.
I gave money to that ba5trd. Thought he was a bit too pushy to be genuine. wend
  • Score: 1

8:46pm Wed 3 Apr 13

Tas1972 says...

Totally shocking that someone thinks they have the right to take hard earned cash from unsuspecting members of the public who think they are giving towards a good cause, how dare this person take from the good & give to the bad (himself)! The fact that he has 45 previous convictions for 83 offences just about says it all, the shear disrespect that he has shown for anyone or anything, how can his legal rep say he doesnt think through the consequences of his actions! 12 months is a joke, he will be back in 6 doing what he does best, committing crime while the tax payer picks up the tab! Disgusting crook using such a good cause for such a bad crime!
Totally shocking that someone thinks they have the right to take hard earned cash from unsuspecting members of the public who think they are giving towards a good cause, how dare this person take from the good & give to the bad (himself)! The fact that he has 45 previous convictions for 83 offences just about says it all, the shear disrespect that he has shown for anyone or anything, how can his legal rep say he doesnt think through the consequences of his actions! 12 months is a joke, he will be back in 6 doing what he does best, committing crime while the tax payer picks up the tab! Disgusting crook using such a good cause for such a bad crime! Tas1972
  • Score: 0

9:18pm Wed 3 Apr 13

SueW70 says...

Disgraceful doesn't even come close! I'm not sure what is making me more angry, the fact that this lowlife obviously has no concience or that he only got 12 months. He already has a long list of previous offences! In reality he will do 6 months or less and be back on the streets. He is obviously a devious person who laughs in the face of the law. What a waste of space! I say he should have been given to the army or the air force and let them deal with him in whatever way they saw fit. If he can stoop this low, what will he do next? Seems to me he's an habitual offender and that won't change. I bet his mum is sooooo proud to call him "son". Disgusting, disgraceful excuse for a human being!
Disgraceful doesn't even come close! I'm not sure what is making me more angry, the fact that this lowlife obviously has no concience or that he only got 12 months. He already has a long list of previous offences! In reality he will do 6 months or less and be back on the streets. He is obviously a devious person who laughs in the face of the law. What a waste of space! I say he should have been given to the army or the air force and let them deal with him in whatever way they saw fit. If he can stoop this low, what will he do next? Seems to me he's an habitual offender and that won't change. I bet his mum is sooooo proud to call him "son". Disgusting, disgraceful excuse for a human being! SueW70
  • Score: 1

10:45pm Wed 3 Apr 13

Sykesie1979 says...

This Idiot Has been in and out of prison the last few years and i have nearly come to blows with him a few times...Really only giving him 12 months is disgraceful to the British Soldiers!! with his previous record i think he should of been given 12 years not 12 months!! I just hope when he comes out he does not come back to witney as there might be a few People wanting more than a word in his ear!!!!
This Idiot Has been in and out of prison the last few years and i have nearly come to blows with him a few times...Really only giving him 12 months is disgraceful to the British Soldiers!! with his previous record i think he should of been given 12 years not 12 months!! I just hope when he comes out he does not come back to witney as there might be a few People wanting more than a word in his ear!!!! Sykesie1979
  • Score: 2

10:29am Thu 4 Apr 13

kikiconcon says...

disgracefull behaviour from a vile person. i could tell a few stories about this "boy". he is a repeat offender, and always will be, he will be out in 6 months time on tag...and will keep commiting crimes. assult, theft, fraud, motor offenses. why oh why after that many conviction would a judge be so silly to only pass a 12 month sentence. as syksie said, there will be for sure a few people wanting a word with him! i would love to know why he wasnt made to pay money back? does the judge think its ok for him to **** up the wall £20 i gave him along with all the others? so not only did he live luxury for a while, he now has a roof over his head, 3 meals a day, a gym, a playstation, xbox , tv etc and they call that punishment. ha! i would have rather have seen him be made to do litter picking on raf brize norton! and to think this bloke is a dad...great role model to his son! i would not let him near if i was the mum, vile vile little boy
disgracefull behaviour from a vile person. i could tell a few stories about this "boy". he is a repeat offender, and always will be, he will be out in 6 months time on tag...and will keep commiting crimes. assult, theft, fraud, motor offenses. why oh why after that many conviction would a judge be so silly to only pass a 12 month sentence. as syksie said, there will be for sure a few people wanting a word with him! i would love to know why he wasnt made to pay money back? does the judge think its ok for him to **** up the wall £20 i gave him along with all the others? so not only did he live luxury for a while, he now has a roof over his head, 3 meals a day, a gym, a playstation, xbox , tv etc and they call that punishment. ha! i would have rather have seen him be made to do litter picking on raf brize norton! and to think this bloke is a dad...great role model to his son! i would not let him near if i was the mum, vile vile little boy kikiconcon
  • Score: 0

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