Undertaker Andrew Baker avoids jail for funeral thefts
An undertaker who misappropriated more than £15,000 meant to be used towards people's funerals has avoided jail.
Andrew Baker was given the money by elderly men and women - the oldest aged 97 - over several years, Worcester Crown Court heard.
Instead of putting it in a trust, it went into a business account to help his failing firm.
He was sentenced to 21 months in jail, suspended for two years, after pledging to pay his victims back in full.
Sentencing Baker, Recorder Graeme Cliff said: "These were mean offences, several over a period of time - the effect on the victim would be obvious, especially as one was aged 97.
"As you plan on repaying victims, that does take the sting out of it."
Giving him a suspended sentence, Mr Cliff told Baker: "You're a lucky man."
The offences took place in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, between 2010 and 2013.
Some of the money taken by Baker was meant to have been donated to charities, the court heard.
One victim, Alison Smith, paid £2,765 for a funeral for her husband and for a contribution to the air ambulance charity but no money was ever handed over to them.
Defending Baker, Belinda Arris said he had been putting the money into his business hoping it would improve and he could give it them back when they wanted it.
But Baker was declared bankrupt in April last year.
Ms Arris said he had a new job and had every intention of paying his victims back, which he would be able to do within the next few weeks.
Last month, the 51-year-old, from Pebworth, Worcestershire, pleaded guilty to 10 charges - five counts of dishonestly making a false claim to gain for self or another, two charges of retaining wrongful credit and three of theft.
A fourth count of theft was ordered to lie on file.