Tuesday, September 8, 1998 Published at 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Nine months for fraud vicar
Rev Roy Hibbert on the way to court to hear his sentence
A retired Anglican vicar has been sentenced to nine months in jail for fraud.
The prosecution said that he had charged grieving parents to bury their stillborn children when the church provides such services for free.
When after a divorce she married a second husband, Stephen, he charged £320 for a blessing for which she should only have paid £40.
"I feel angry and let down. Who can you trust if you can't trust the person who is next to godliness in your eyes," she said.
Hibbert, who was married and a father of two, was said to have under-stated his earnings to church authorities and was awarded extra money from church funds.
He was arrested after members of his congregations complained of his overcharging.
Church's reputation damaged
Altogether, the prosecution believed that he had stolen £50,000 in "large-scale fraud" - the defence said the amount was £20,000.
The church has said it had lost a great deal of money as a result of his dishonesty as well as suffering damage to its reputation.
"It's an event like this that will actually dent the public confidence in the church's ability to manage its financial affairs properly," said Robert Ellis, a spokesman for the diocese of Lichfield.
"We've put systems into operation that will ensure that this will not happen again."
He had pleaded guilty to 11 charges of false accounting at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
A 'broken man'
The court heard that he began cheating his three congregations in Newport, Chetwynd and Forton twelve years ago and continued until his retirement in 1996.
His defence said during the trial he was a "broken man" facing a "humiliating and disastrous" end to his career.
"Though you would not dream of stealing from someone's purse or house or car," Judge Frank Chapman told Hibbert, "the result is the same."
"Even ordained priests can fall victim to temptation, and sadly your good career of 42 years is now stained by your actions."