Churchgoers in the Chalke Valley were told that a two-year-long fraud investigation into thousands of pounds of misappropriated church funds has ended if the perpetrator repays the money. Between 2008 and 2017, the former Britford Church and Chalke Valley Team Council Treasurer, Roger Ladbury, misappropriated about £96,000 from the two accounts he oversaw.
At a meeting on Wednesday evening, July 31, Revd Catherine Blundell, rector of the Chalke Valley Churches, told church-members that, in 2017, church officers had discovered the discrepancy in church funds from two bank accounts in the Team, which has 12 communities along the Chalke Valley, near Salisbury.
Police had been informed immediately and started a two year-long investigation into the fraud.
She apologised for it not being made public but police involvement required the matter to remain confidential until the investigation was completed.
Revd Blundell said: “The treasurer post was a volunteer role and Roger Ladbury’s stewardship of these two accounts had been taken on trust.
“To resolve the investigation, after guidance from the Diocesan Legal department, it was agreed Mr Ladbury should be issued with a Conditional Caution by Wiltshire Police. The conditions of his caution are that he repays all the missing money: is offered the opportunity for Christian confession and receive absolution: writes a letter of admission and apology to all church members and listens to victim impact statements that expressed the hurt, betrayal and anger his actions have caused.
She admitted that a Conditional Caution was unusual, but under legal guidance “and after much prayer”, it had been accepted.
“A conditional caution allows him to face the consequences of his actions, but avoids a lengthy court case or a possible prison sentence for an elderly man. This, we feel, allows us to demonstrate clear Christian values in the resolution of this matter.”
But, she added, that didn’t mean everyone wasn’t deeply hurt by his actions.
“He was a neighbour and a friend of many of the people he stole from, and that leads to a strong sense of betrayal and will take the communities time to heal.’’
“But now that the money has been repaid and Roger has confessed and apologised, we hope that as Churches we can move on from this.
“We do not want this one act to define us because as Churches we reach out into the communities we serve with generosity and love”
She asked that the congregations pray for Mr Ladbury and his wife and also asked them to remember “the clergy team as they manage the pastoral ramifications of this incident.”
Revd Blundell said she also wanted to “reassure all those who give so kindly and generously to the church that they had thoroughly reviewed all procedures and processes in the appointment of their new Treasurers, “with the oversight and management of Church accounts and the reporting procedure and this should ensure a situation like this does not happen again.”