Trustee who stole almost £25,000 from Newington Community Association ordered to pay cash back

Mike Harrison

A former Thanet councillor has been ordered to pay back cash he stole from Newington Community Association whilst acting as a Trustee.

At a hearing in March Mike Harrison admitted one charge of fraud by false representation relating to 77 fraudulent transactions between 1 August 2015 and 10 February 2020 amounting to just under £25,000.

Mr Harrison, who was formerly a Labour Party Cabinet member at the authority, stole the cash from the association to fund his gambling habit.

The former ambulance worker, who had been carer for his wife until she passed away last month, was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on June 9.

The 76-year-old, of Holbrook Drive, received 16 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months, 25 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement Days, costs of £340 to the CPS and was ordered to repay £24,957.62 to Newington Community Association. This will be paid to the court within 12 months and then passed to the association. Non payment will result in enforcement action.

Discovering the fraud

The Newington Community Association Board of Trustees became aware of the fraud in February 2020.

The charity immediately reported this to Action Fraud,  the Charity Commission and key stakeholders as well as launching an urgent investigation and review of all procedures. New financial procedures were put in place, bank signatories were changed and a robust new accounting system and personnel were put in place, including a finance manager and an external accountant.

Work of the association

The Newington Community Association manages the Newington Community Centre which has been used as a food storage and distribution hub during the pandemic. The centre is an important part of the community providing events, meeting space, children’s activities, holiday clubs and groups for families.

Its Food Club supports more than 1,600 households, providing low-cost and free food, and also provides pack lunches, hot meals for children and family meal kits during school holidays.

‘Under the cloud of theft’

Following the sentencing the Newington Community Association Board said: “For the last 16 months we have been under the cloud of theft of a considerable amount of the charities money by someone who we trusted.

“This has now been dealt with at court and Mr Harrison has to pay this money back via the courts within 12 months, we look forward hopefully to receiving these well needed funds returned.

“A lot of hardworking volunteers have kept Newington Community Centre running and with this sorry episode behind us we intend to move forward in a positive manner.”