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Former priest avoids jail over funeral fraud

Former priest Andrew Hawthorne has been given a two year suspended sentence for fraud in relation to funeral fees which should have been paid to the Diocese of Winchester and Christchurch parish.

Winchester Crown Court heard how he “dishonestly” kept £49,000 in fees from services between 2009 and 2013, whilst also attaining a church housing allowance.

He continued to hold funerals at Bournemouth Crematorium even after he had been suspended by the church.

Judge Parkes said the defendant had taken money which should have been spent on “good, charitable causes”, and he added Hawthorne was being spared jail because of prosecution delays. Hawthorne has also been ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

Detective constable, Lorraine Bell said: “Today’s sentence comes after a long and complex investigation by Hampshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit. Hawthorne had previously claimed that he was entitled to keep the fees as a result of an agreement he said had been made locally.
“Witnesses from the Diocese made clear that this wasn’t the case and Hawthorne’s actions flouted rules within the church over a long period of time.”

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