A Roman Catholic priest, Fr John Reid, has admitted stealing £50,000 from his parish, St Cuthbert’s Church in Newcastle, UK and spending the money on his lover.
Father Reid, who quadrupled spending when he took charge of the church in 2009, avoided prison sentence after he told a Durham Crown Court that he will pay back the £50,000 within three months.
He told the court that he had fallen in love with his housekeeper, Gillian Leddy, and saw her daughters, Veronica and Alice, as ‘the family that he never had’.
Reid narrated how he bought the daughters two properties each as well as a car and funded two of their businesses.
According to the priest, he further appointed his lover as co-signatory of the parish chequebook and also began running the church without a committee of parishioners.
He said that the decision led to a split in the church, with some backing him and others angry at how he was running affairs.
Fr Reid accepted taking the Leddys out to eat ‘a few times a week’.
Over the four years he was at St Cuthbert’s, his basic remuneration should have totalled £31,455.
But he disbursed to himself more than £113,000 from parish cheques. He wrote more than 150 cheques to himself, most of which were co-signed by his lover.
He added that he gave his lover and her daughters substantial amounts of cash as pocket monies.
After giving a narration of he misappropriated donations made by his parishioners, his counsel, Christopher Knox, spoke of 15 character references and said the priest expressed ‘great distress, regret and apology’.
According to DAILY MAIL of UK, the presiding Judge, Og Prince, expressed a hope that the fracture within the parish between those who supported the priest and those who did not would soon mend.
He was persuaded to suspend sentence of two years jail term prescribed for such offences without conditions. because of Fr Reid’s good character.
He also accepted that the priest was not fully equipped to deal with the modern priesthood, having heard he was bad at paperwork.
‘You have lived an exemplary life dedicated to the service of others,’ he said.
He described the ‘aberration’ as one that ‘persisted for over 40 months’.
And he said: “Your behaviour was wholly out of character.
“What led you astray so late in life at age 70 must remain a matter of mere conjecture.
“Whilst of course the court and parishioners must ‘deprecate’ your dishonesty, it does not otherwise detract from your creditable record in other fields”, the judge said.