A 51-YEAR-old Accrington man recruited to collect money for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds feathered his own nest instead.
Hyndburn magistrates heard Robert Smith paid nothing into the charity’s bank account despite emptying charity boxes over a two month period. And Smith later told police he had spent the money to pay his own personal bills.
Smith, 54, of Fountain Street, Accrington, pleaded guilty to stealing money from the RSPB. He was jailed for 120 days.
The magistrates heard as a result of the offence he had already been recalled to prison until October 2010 to complete a seven year sentence imposed for sex offences involving children.
Catherine Allan, prosecuting, said the offence was "despicable".
"The money he stole had been given by members of the public in support of a charitable cause," said Miss Allan. "This kind of offence can have an influence on people’s willingness to give to charity because they lose trust."
Miss Allan said Smith was a member of the RSPB before he took on the role of volunteer collector. He was provided with collection boxes and 1,000 lapel pins which people got in return for a donation.
After two months in the position no money had been banked and his supervisor became suspicious. Smith refused to answer his calls and when the official made a home visit his wife said he had moved out.
Miss Allan said the RSPB official found that boxes had been left and then emptied at least once at the Accrington town centre Post Office. Y and M News, Super Smokes and W H Smith. She said a total of 457 badges were missing.
"If you work on the basis that people give a £1 for a badge there would be £457 missing," said Miss Allan.
John Clish, defending, said his client believed the amount he had taken was more like £110.
Mr Clish said Smith had been approached by the area fund raising manager who had asked him to take on the job.
"This is not a case where he has applied for the job with the intention of stealing," said Mr Clish. "He has a genuine interest in birds and was a member when he was approached to help with fund raising."
Mr Clish said that since being released from prison on licence Smith had struggled financially.
"He has allowed temptation to get the better of him," said Mr Clish.
Imposing a prison sentence the chairman of the magistrates said the offence was a "despicable breach of trust."
"We need to let the public know that if anyone does anything like this they will go to custody," he added.