The rector for Haverhill and Withersfield has been arrested for fraud and suspended by the Church of England.
Revd Canon Ian Finn, 55, had been placed on ‘Extended Bishop’s leave’ last month and did not take the service at St Mary the Virgin Church in the Market Square on February 16 after ‘financial irregularities’ came to light.
A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “A 55 year old man from Haverhill who was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation on Tuesday (4), and taken to the Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre (PIC) for questioning, has been bailed to return to Bury PIC on April 2 pending further enquiries.”
John Howard, spokesman for the Church of England, in Suffolk, said: “The police are investigating and it is therefore inappropriate for the Church to make any comment at this stage.
“We are working closely with the parishes of Haverhill and Withersfield to support them at this time.
“I can confirm that Mr Finn has been suspended by the Church of England in Suffolk, pending the outcome of the police investigation.”
The alleged fraud relates to money from the payments for weddings and funerals.
Mr Finn said it was due to ‘administrative and accounting mistakes’, and said he had paid back what he believes to be owed.
The initial church statement last month was: “The Venerable Dr David Jenkins, Archdeacon of Sudbury, and the Rev Canon Ian Finn have discussed financial irregularities within Canon Finn’s work for the church.
“The irregularities relate to the payment of part of the fees that should have been passed to the diocese for services taken, including weddings and funerals.
“Ian has explained that this was entirely the result of administrative and accounting mistakes, rather than any deliberate acts.
“He has already refunded to the diocese what he currently believes to be owing.
“He acknowledges that a great deal more work needs to be done by him, with the assistance of an accountant, to ensure that the accurate financial position is established.
“He has already cooperated fully over the matter and will continue to do so.
“Ian has been offered pastoral support and we hope that his Church family will be understanding and support him and his loved ones while he is not with them.
“The diocese is arranging for the church to be cared for by other local clergy while Ian is away and the Rev Cheryl Collins is to act as rural dean with immediate effect.”
After Mr Finn had his leave extended Capt Andrew Payne moved to assure people that the church’s community work would not be compromised, saying: “Mr Finn will be in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. “The church is doing some great stuff in Haverhill and all the things we are involved with will not be compromised in any way and will continue.”
At the parish church, a spokesman for the church wardens at St Mary’s said: “Church life is continuing and we will be supported by other local clergy who will take benefice services, minister to the needs of our congregation and ensure the smooth running of our church during his absence.”
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (March 20) Echo.