Haverhill vicar accused of £12,000 fraud blames incompetence, not dishonesty, court told

Ian Finn

Ian Finn

A Haverhill clergyman blamed chaotic record keeping and incompetence when challenged about £12,000 of missing money from his church, a court has been told.

Ian Finn, who worked as parish rector at St Mary The Virgin Church in Haverhill told the Diocesan Board of Finance that he had failed to pay enough attention to financial matters.

In addition to his Haverhill parish, Finn is also Rural Dean of Clare and an honorary dean at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Finn, 55, of Hopton Rise, Haverhill is on trial at Ipswich Crown Court where he has pleaded not guilty to an offence of fraud by abuse of position between June 2007 and March 2014.

It is alleged that Finn gained £12,707, prosecutor Charles Myatt told the jury.

The court was told that initial concerns had been raised by the parish treasurer about Finn’s record keeping in January 2014 which resulted in Finn being invited to an informal meeting with Archdeacon David Jenkins a month later.

During the meeting Finn was asked if he wished to say anything and told Archdeacon Jenkins that he did not know and would need to return home to check.

Mr Myatt said the next day Finn produced a two page document in which he had listed what he claimed were errors he had made during the previous seven years and which amounted, by Finn’s reckoning, to involve about £18,000.

The jury heard that Finn’s duties at St Mary The Virgin Church had included responsibility to collect fees for wedding, funeral and cremation services and for reading out wedding banns.

That money should have been paid to the Diocesan Board of Finance, the church organist and the Parochial Church Council, said Mr Myatt.

When questioned by Suffolk police, Finn had claimed that the missing church fees were a matter of incompetence on his part rather that dishonesty.

Finn told detectives that he had made simple accounting mistakes and blamed the situation on ‘chaotic record keeping and poor and inadequate accounting skills’.

The trial which is expected to conclude next week continues.