Christopher Copeland – guilty plea to defrauding three hundred grand from charity

Christopher Copeland – guilty plea to defrauding three hundred grand from charity

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Photo from the BBC
Photo from the BBC

Introduction

Some people, when you find out their offending, you know will get a hammering when they are sentenced. Christopher Copeland is one such gentleman.

On 28th July 2014 he pleaded guilty to one count of fraud (and one count of money laundering that related to hiding the proceeds of the fraud). Sentence has been adjourned until 15th September.

 

Facts

Mr Copeland was organising collections on behalf of the charity ‘Help for Heroes’ all over the UK. He was registered with them, and did in fact gives tens of thousands of pounds to them that he had collected.

However, he also kept about £300,000 for himself over an 18 month period, paying this into his own bank account. It is not clear how this came to light, but by his plea of guilty he accepted that this was the case.

It is not clear at what point of the proceedings Mr Copeland pleaded guilty, but it seems that there was some discussion as to the amount stolen and a plea was entered once the prosecution had agreed the total amount stolen.

 

What will he get?

There are two guidelines to look at – the Theft Guidelines and the Fraud Guidelines.

Looking at the Theft ones, this is theft in a high breach of trust (p11) and is right at the top of that bracket, giving a sentence of about 5-6 years after a trial.

With the Fraud guidelines, it’s probably best described as a confidence fraud. We’d say it was in the top bracket, which gives a starting point of 5 years after a trial.

So, pretty similar whichever way you look at it. Stealing from a charity doesn’t go down well at all (for pretty obvious reasons), and we’d say the Judge will probably start with 6 years (if not a little bit more) before giving whatever credit is appropriate. On the basis that this was a plea at the earliest opportunity, we’ll plump for a sentence of 4½ years.

 

What was he released on bail?

Having pleaded guilty to an offence for which he is almost certainly going to go to prison for, some might find it surprising that he wasn’t locked up there and then. Twenty or so years ago, he probably would have done, not least because some judges would have seen it as a kindness (the time spent on remand would count towards the sentence) and to spare the defendant a month or so in a state of having their liberty, but knowing that they are about to lose it.

Times have changed a bit and the Judge has to look at the Bail Act to see if there are reasons for the defendant to be remanded.

In this case, Mr Castelford appears to be a man of good character, and there is no reason to suggest that he won’t come to Court. After all, he turned up today knowing that he was pleading guilty.

Some defendants would actually ask to be remanded to start their sentence, some prefer to have time to put everything in order.

In this case, the fact that it has gone off until September indicates that more than just the usual pre-sentence report is needed. Probably a medical report, but we don’t know.

Either way, even if there’s something exceptional in the reports, we’d expect a pretty lengthy prison when he is back in six weeks time. We will return and look at it then.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like a six year starting point with a third off for a plea at the earliest opportunity (to the £300K). Psychiatric report may have a bearing. The big question is, “where’s the money?”.

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