Ex-Mayor avoids jail at fraud sentencing

Ex-Mayor of Ripon Coun Andrew Williams leaving Leeds Crown Court after sentencing.
Ex-Mayor of Ripon Coun Andrew Williams leaving Leeds Crown Court after sentencing.

Former Mayor of Ripon Coun Andrew Williams has avoided prison after being sentenced for fraud committed at the city’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Williams, 44, appeared for sentencing at Leeds Crown Court on Tuesday after he was found guilty by a jury at York Crown Court in June of pocketing the city council’s £220 sales commission given to him by an ice cream vendor while he was still Mayor.

Sentencing Williams to 200 hours of unpaid work for the community he stole from and a 12-month supervision order, Judge Guy Kearl said: “You have brought disgrace on the position you occupied and you have eroded the confidence of the public in the position of Mayor of Ripon.

“What you did is unforgivable, particularly given you had chance after chance either to hand the money in or pay it back instead of which you did nothing and when questioned attempted to lie your way out of it, first to the police and then to the jury.”

The court heard on the day of the jubilee celebrations on June 4, 2012, ice cream sales vendor John Taylor of C&M Ices had handed Williams, who was wearing his chains of office, £220 – commission Mr Taylor owed Ripon City Council for his sales pitch at the event – but Williams had failed to deposit the money with the town clerk.

The offence came to light when the council’s Finance and General Purposes committee noted the money had not been received, with minutes of a November 2012 meeting recording Williams saying he was still chasing the money.

At the trial, the jury heard £220 in cash was sent anonymously to the city council offices in April last year.

Prosecutor Rebecca Young told Leeds Crown Court intelligence analysis of Williams’ bank statements had shown between May 2012 and March 2013 he had lost more than £31,000 through gambling and borrowed more than £14,000 through loan companies.

But in mitigation, defence barrister Alasdair Campbell disputed the accuracy of the figures, telling the judge: “You may recall in the agreed facts these figures were not borne out when a more thorough investigation was dealt with by William Hill which showed over a long time period he wasn’t losing at gambling.”

Mr Campbell described Williams’ pocketing of the money as an “opportunistic theft”. He added: “Clearly, he has a gambling problem. He’s tried to deal with that by staying out of betting shops. He has not gambled since April of last year. It’s my submission the public would be served by the defendant being treated for that addiction.”

The court heard Williams, formerly of Pine View, Locker Lane, Ripon, had left the city to live in another part of North Yorkshire due to coverage of the case and had lost two jobs in the aftermath of his arrest and court case – the first as chief executive of Stowe Family Law in Harrogate and a subsequent position with an asbestos removal company.

Mr Campbell also said Williams had not sought re-election for North Yorkshire and Harrogate Borough councils, and only remained on Ripon City Council because resigning would trigger a by-election costing the borough council money.

Sentencing Williams to the 200 hours of unpaid work and the 12-month supervision order – which will seek to address his gambling problem – Judge Kearl said: “This is not a case about people who occupy public positions fiddling expenses.

“It’s about stealing money donated by a trader on the day of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee from your own council’s funds.”