A senior Suffolk clergyman accused of defrauding his own church has today told a court that his inexperience with accounting and not dishonesty was responsible for thousands of pounds in undeclared fees.
Rev Ian Finn, 57, who is Rector of St Mary the Virgin in Haverhill, was giving evidence on the fourth days of his trial at Ipswich Crown Court where he has pleaded not guilty to fraud by abuse of position.
Finn, of Hopton Rise, Haverhill who has been suspended from his post for the past two years since discrepancies in church accounts emerged, said that when he subsequently carried out his own checks he was “totally gutted and horrified” with what he found.
He told the jury: “I just couldn’t believe that I had been so neglectful in my duties hat this could have happened.”
Finn said he estimated that his errors involved £18,000 and had paid that amount to the Diocesan Board of Finance just hours later.
When the trial opened it was alleged that Finn had failed to declare £13,237 in fees to diocesan officials and which he had been paid for funeral services and to read banns for forthcoming weddings.
Today (Thursday) the court heard from Charles Myatt, prosecuting, that because of an error in calculating what Finn is alleged to have failed to include in quarterly returns the figure was now put at £12,707.
Finn, who said he only gained a maths O level at school at the second attempt, said he had been ‘snowed under with work’ after taking up his post in Haverhill in 2007 and a training course he attended about church fees gave little guidance about how payments should be handled.
Denying any dishonesty, Finn told the jury: “I did not steal that money. I would never do anything to hurt the church. I am totally committed.”
The court heard that Finn has never been handed back the £6000 difference between the £18,000 he transferred to church officials for what he believed had been overlooked on eturns of fees and the amount now claimed.
Finn said that prior to the appointment of a new parish treasurer in 2013 he had been responsible for completing quarterly returns and had usually spent no more than half an hour on the task.
The prosecution have alleged that Finn continued to ask for payments to be made in cash or by cheque payable to himself.
Finn told the court that it was a system he had always found to work and he used a bank account which made it clear that he was acting as the Rector of the parish and always tried to be accurate in what he passed on to the diocese.
The fraud charge is alleged to relate to the seven years between 2007 and 2014.
The trial continues.