Alcoholic vicar stole more than £100,000 in funeral fees to spend on booze – INTELLINEWS

An alcoholic vicar stole more than £100,000 in funeral fees and blew it on booze.

But when the number of funerals Rev Michael Fry conducted rocketed he failed to declare the extra money he was receiving from funeral directors.

Liverpool Crown Court heard he was allowed to retain some of the money but only if it did not take him above his annual stipend of £22,000.

He failed to submit any financial returns to the diocese for nearly eight years from 2005 to 2013 – helping himself to £107,673 in total.

When the diocese realised what was happening, Fry confessed to having spent the money mainly on alcohol, books and travel.

Rev Michael Fry spent the money on booze

He admitted eight counts of theft but was spared jail after a judge said his positive contributions to society outweighed the bad.

Rev Michael Fry was one of the best-known clergymen in the city at St Luke’s church and the chaplain at Liverpool Women’s Hospital over a 25-year career.

Simon Duncan, prosecuting, said Fry, of Aigburth Vale, Liverpool, joined the diocese in 1989 and in 1991 became a team vicar with St Luke in the City.

The diocese was “completely relaxed” about the financial arrangement regarding funerals, and assumed he was still carrying out 20 to 25 a year.

Rev Michael Fry appeared at Liverpool Crown Court

Fry met with the Archdeacon in November 2013 when he claimed he carried out 15 to 18 funerals a year.

He later revealed he had conducted 27 but would not sign a document to confirm this number, which actually turned out to be 49. He resigned in January 2014.

Admissions he made to police during interviews that year led to him being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Mr Duncan accepted a long delay in the case coming to court was “highly significant” but said the investigation was complex and church records were in a poor state.

Martine Snowdon, defending, said Fry did not initially set out to steal but failed to “scrupulously” declare the increase.

Rev Michael Fry was sectioned after a police interview

She said: “He’s let himself down, he’s let his peers down, he’s let the people he served in the community down.”

Ms Snowdon said, after Fry’s parents died in 2002 and 2007, he suffered from depression and turned to alcohol.

She said he had now got his life back together and started helping the homeless voluntarily.

Judge Elizabeth Nicholls said: “It is a great tragedy to see a man of so obvious ability, ending his chosen vocation in this manner in the dock of a criminal court.”

However, she said he had taken responsibility, overcome his problems and endured a long wait to learn his fate.

She handed him 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, plus 200 hours of unpaid work.

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