Father John Reid avoided jail after stealing £50,000 from his parish
Father John Reid was supposed to live a simple, celibate life as a Roman Catholic cleric. But he spent £1,200 on a canteen of William Turner cutlery, was a member of the Sunday Times Wine Club and blew £80 on oysters and smoked salmon while holidaying in Scotland.
Yet he walked free, despite a judge telling him his fraud was an “aberration” which persisted for more than 40 months while he was in charge of St Cuthbert’s Church in Chester-leStreet, Co Durham.
The priest fell in love with his housekeeper and used the money to buy her family gifts
At Durham Crown Court Judge Christopher Prince gave the 70-yearold an 18-month suspended sentence after he admitted fraud by abuse of position at a previous hearing.
He has agreed to pay back the £50,000 within three months. The court heard that Reid told police he had fallen in love with his housekeeper, Gillian Leddy, and saw her daughters, Veronica and Alice, as “the family that he never had”.
Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said concerns were raised by parishioners in January 2013 about the finances.
It was dirty with large quantities of alcohol present
Jane Waugh, prosecuting
The priest, now living in Stockton, had joined the parish in 2009 and accounts showed spending increased four-fold in some aspects and doubled overall after he took over.
When the priest was replaced temporarily, his successor said the presbytery was “in a terrible condition”.
Ms Waugh said: “It was dirty with large quantities of alcohol present.”
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The money was spent on luxury items including £80 for oysters
She said it looked more like a family home than a presbytery.
She said: “There was female clothing in the bedrooms and it was apparent females had been staying there.”
The court heard Reid had written more than 150 cheques to himself.
When interviewed he had said: “The parish keeps me. Ultimately, I’m in charge of it so I can spend it.”
Christopher Knox, defending, said Reid expressed “great distress, regret and apology".