Liverpool

Former Liverpool vicar given suspended jail term over £100,000 diocese thefts

Michael John Fry
Image caption Michael John Fry is "deeply remorseful" about "failing his peers and society", the court heard

A former Anglican vicar who stole more than £100,000 from his diocese has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Michael John Fry, 57, of Aigburth Vale, Liverpool pleaded guilty to committing eight offences over an eight-year period ending 1 January 2014.

What began as an administrative failing became "dishonesty" and "an enormous breach of trust", Judge Elizabeth Nicholls told Liverpool Crown Court.

Fry was sentenced to 20 months in jail, suspended for two years.

Fry misled Liverpool diocese about the number of funerals which he had conducted and illegally kept fees from 1,250 parochial funerals.

He spent the money on alcohol, books, and travel, the court heard.

Passing sentence, the judge said "the good you have done in the community outweighs the harm".

She said Fry was a caring and compassionate individual who continued to volunteer with the homeless.

'Demons'

The sums he stole began with £1,751 between December 2005 and January 2007, increasing to £20,049 between December 2011 and January 2013.

He should have sent any fees above his £22,000 annual stipend to the diocese.

Fry's defence lawyer, Martine Snowdon, said the theft was born out of failure to act rather than a scheme devised by him.

Nevertheless, she told the court her client was "deeply remorseful" about failing his peers and society.

Liverpool diocese was originally relaxed about Fry's accounts "given the expectation of honesty and integrity of one of their own", the court was told.

The court heard the money stolen by Fry could have funded four full-time clergy posts.

The Archdeacon of Liverpool, Venerable Ricky Panter, said the "scale of the fraud is staggering" but the church is "pleased" he has been given a suspended sentence.

He said he was "immensely sad and felt let down" but "knows Michael and the demons he has fought against", adding: "I'm looking for him to resume some kind of ministry in the future."

Fry was a member of the St Luke in the City Team, which included three parish churches - St Michael's on Upper Pitt Street, St Bride's on Percy Street and St Dunstan's on Earle Road.

He resigned from his post early in 2014.

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