A 62-YEAR-OLD man who went into a Sabden church to get warm stole money from a collection box containing donations from people who had lit a candle in memory of a loved one.
Blackburn magistrates heard that Duncan Baldwin had also gone to another church in the village where he had stolen £30 from the minister’s wallet while he was leading the morning service.
The presiding magistrate described the offences as “despicable”, but Baldwin was given a conditional discharge for 18 months and the magistrates made no order for costs.
Mrs Catherine Allan (prosecuting) said that Bernard Parfitt, a warden at St Nicholas Church, noticed Baldwin at the rear of the church after the service had been held and most of the congregation had left.
“He told the defendant he would be closing the church shortly and Baldwin said he was just looking at the visitors’ book,” said Mrs Allan.
“Shortly after Mr Parfit heard money rattling and when they looked Baldwin and the collection box had gone.”
The church wardens started looking for Baldwin and went to the Baptist church, where Timothy Peagam is the minister. He had removed his jacket and left it in the hall while leading the service and when he checked his jacket he found his wallet and £30 were missing.
Police arrested Baldwin, of Accrington Road, Burnley, nearby and recovered all the property that had been stolen.
Mr Andrew Church-Taylor (defending) said that although Baldwin had a record, he had not been in trouble since 2001.
“I have tried to get an explanation as to why someone who has been out of trouble for so long should commit these offences, but there is nothing specific,” said Mr Church-Taylor.
“He has been told he is to lose his accommodation and he is seeking medical help for depression and perhaps these things were on his mind.”
Mr Church-Taylor said that Baldwin had set out on the Sunday morning to go for a walk and had ended up in Sabden for no particular reason.
“He says he is acutely embarrassed by these offences and expresses his remorse,” said Mr Church-Taylor.
“He is particularly upset that these offences have appeared in the press and people know he has stolen from church premises. He has to live with the shame of that.”
Imposing a conditional discharge, the magistrates said they were moving away from their guidelines because of Baldwin’s personal circumstances with regards to his age and mental health, and also that he had been named in the press. They made no order for costs in view of his financial circumstances.