Essex county councillor Pierre Oxley given suspended jail term for Clacton sports club fraud

Pierre Oxley (right) pictured during the 2011 Tendring District Council election count

Pierre Oxley (right) pictured during the 2011 Tendring District Council election count - Credit: Andrew Partridge

An Essex county councillor who committed sports club grant fraud has been given a suspended jail term.

Chelmsford Crown Court

Chelmsford Crown Court - Credit: Lucy taylor

Pierre Oxley, who represents the Clacton East division, had last month admitted eight charges in relation to inappropriate use of funding awarded to Clacton Sports Club.

Yesterday Oxley, 41, of Ladbrooke Road, Clacton, was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The court heard Oxley had forged invoices from contractors for work, which in some cases was not carried out, to justify the grants paid by the four funding bodies – Essex County Council’s Community Initiative Fund, Essex Environmental Trust, Sport England and the Big Lottery Fund.

But instead of capital works to the facilities at Clacton Sports Club in Vista Road, which included Clacton United Football Club and Clacton Cricket Club, the funds went to general club business in a bid to get the organisation out of financial difficulties.

Sacha Bailey, prosecuting, said the fraud came to light when VAT calculation errors were spotted, which prompted a wider investigation.

In total Oxley applied for just more than £143,000, and had £95,000 paid out in grants.

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Police raided his home and were handed over a bundle of documents and his laptop.

However the court was told there was no implication Oxley had made any personal gain from the frauds, and was acting in the perceived interests of the club.

Ms Bailey added: “The club could not survive financially and the money Oxley obtained through these means was being used to enable the club to survive.”

Stephen Harvey QC, mitigating, said: “The monies were utilised in the furtherance and continuation of this club’s facilities for the benefit of youngsters in the area and beyond.

“In all probability had he bothered to go back and ask the charities if they were prepared to reallocate the money the answer would have been yes.”

He added that Oxley had been involved in public service since the age of 16, including previous roles at Tendring District Council as a cabinet member.

Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC, sentencing, said: “You have committed very serious crimes, because they are crimes against society. The maintenance of high standards of trust, honesty and decency of those who serve the public and dispose of public resources on our behalf is vital to the health of our society that is fair and free from corruption.

“You took not a penny of the money for your own personal use and that distinguishes your case and makes it exceptional. It is rare someone who perpetrates a fraud of this character and scale does so for any other purpose but their own benefit.

“You are plainly a decent and honourable person but you made here a grave and dishonest error of judgement, where you put the welfare of your organisation first ahead of the competition for public funding.

“This is not acceptable as you know and at a time when not least in the sporting world there is an infestation of corruption which damages a whole community.

“The character references say you are full of remorse for what you have done and I accept that.

“I hope you will re-build your reputation in time. I am confident you will.”

Oxley, who is a member of the Tendring First party, was sentenced to two year’s imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently, all suspended for one year.

He must also carry out 300 hours of unpaid work, and pay court costs of £1,500.

As the sentence is longer than three months it means Oxley is automatically banned from being a councillor for five years.

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