Ex-councillor jailed for 10 months after rugby club fraud

Richard Milner (s)
Richard Milner (s)

A former Barnoldswick town and borough councillor has been jailed for 10 months after a £16,000 fraud at the rugby league club where he was chairman.

Richard Daniel Milner (35) paid himself 14 cheques from West Craven Warriors over a three year period between June 2011 and March 2014.

His crime was discovered when two new members of the committee at the club were presented with documents by Milner’s ex-partner Catherine Wilkinson which suggested he had not acted correctly during the course of his administration, Burnley Crown Court heard. Police were then contacted and investigation was launched.

Milner, of Lower West Avenue, had admitted six counts of fraud and one count of theft at Burnley Magistrates’ Court in July. He had no previous convictions.

Prosecutor Emma Kehoe told the court that Milner helped himself to the money when the fish and chip shop business he had set up ran into financial difficulty.

Miss Kehoe told the hearing that Milner disputed the £16,112 figure put forward by the crown prosecution service and said, in his view, the amount was £12,527.

Miss Kehoe read out in court a statement from one of the committee members who stated the club was left “virtually penniless” and left with a £4,000 debt because of Milner’s actions, having previously been financially healthy.

The court heard that although the club was now back on a stable footing, at one point members were not sure it would survive and that it had taken a series of special fund-raising events and hard work to recover its position.

Milner, who represented himself in court because he could not afford a barrister, handed the judge character references from Stonegate, his current employer, and former council colleagues Ken Hartley and David Whipp.

He told the court: “I’m extremely sorry for what I have done. I regret it every day.”

He said the rugby club was part of his family and he had many friends there who he had let down.

Milner also told the court that he offered to pay the money back, and that offer still stands, to make amends.

He said he had turned his life around and was in a stable relationship with a new partner and had a steady job at the Black Horse Pub in Skipton.

Sentencing, Judge Mark Brown, said Milner had set an “extremely poor” example and his case was one of “a fall from grace” and “in many respects was something of a tragedy” to see him up in court for sentencing.

He said Milner took advantage of the “somewhat amateurish” way that records were kept at the rugby club over a three year period.

Judge Brown told Milner that the character testimonials showed “that in the past you have provided dedicated and industrious support for your local community.”

“On the other hand”, the judge continued, “you have committed very serious offences”.

Judge Brown said: “At that time you held the position of chairman and were undoubtedly in a significant position of trust.

“I’m satisfied that you took advantage of that position when you fraudulently obtained from the club a significant amount of money.”