Charity slates court “leniency” for blind Chesterfield fraudster as proceeds hearing looms

Christopher Payne
Christopher Payne

A blind charity which was conned out of an estimated £7,000 by a former blind treasurer has slammed the court for sparing the defendant from jail and is urging the stolen funds be repaid.

Christopher Payne, 57, of Byron Road, Chesterfield, appeared at Derby Crown Court in November for defrauding The Accessible Friends Network when he was the charity’s membership administrator and treasurer.

Recorder Justin Wigoder sentenced Payne to 12 months’ custody suspended for two years with a six-month curfew after stating Payne’s “position” made prison “impossible”.

However, pending a Proceeds of Crime hearing against Payne on January 22, current TAFN Treasurer John Wells stated in a letter to the Recorder that such leniency was unjustified and the club is concerned what will happen regarding repayment of funds.

He said: “I am most concerned with both the sentence - or to be more precise the lack of - and also the implication that if one is blind you are entitled to commit a crime and walk free. Virtually all TAFN club members are blind and without exception we are of the opinion the statement made in court is both detrimental and denigrating to the blind population of the UK. Mr Payne has no remorse whatsoever and freely admitted that had he been successful in the club’s election in March he would have continued his fraudulent practice. The court’s leniency has no justification and, on behalf of the club, I am writing to enquire what action should be taken for repayment of the stolen funds.”

Payne admitted transferring money from the charity into his accounts and playing the charity’s bingo while not paying for a stake but claiming winnings when his numbers came up.

Mark Watson, prosecuting, explained Payne had been treasurer but was voted out in March, 2015, and realised he was about to be found out. Payne pleaded guilty to committing fraud between January 1, 2012, and March 12, 2015.

Mr Wells stated to Mr Wigoder: “I trust you will consider my points and also revoke the notion that blind people are permitted to step outside the law, purely due to their circumstances.”

He added such a view was “irrational” and offensive to blind people.