THE former treasurer of a Royal British Legion club has vowed to return after being cleared of fraud.
Timothy Rickards was found not guilty of six counts of fraud after a day-long trial at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court.
The 58-year-old had been accused of abusing the position, which he had held with the Gosport club, in Brockhurst Road, since 1997.
Speaking after the verdict, Mr Rickards said: ‘I’m very pleased that I have been found not guilty.
‘I am still a member of the club, but I haven’t been there since I was suspended from my position in June.
‘Over the years I’ve represented the club in a number of sports, and I won’t be taking part in any of their events any more, but now I have been cleared, I will use the club on a Friday night.
‘I am part of a group that meets upstairs, so I will be joining them again.’
A number of discrepancies were found in the accounts when Rodrick Patterson took over as the club’s financial chairman a year ago and decided to go through the books.
Mr Rickards had been accused of buying items through the club’s Argos business account, including a Nike sports bag worth £12.35, a Vax upright cleaner worth £113.95, camping cooking equipment worth £80.70 and a suitcase for £31.53.
He was also accused of buying Strongbow cider, a frozen turkey and hot-cross buns worth a total of £32.29 and a bottle of Ricard spirits and some energy drinks worth £25.18 from Makro using a debit card for the club’s main account.
During the trial, Mr Rickards, of Findon Road in Elson, Gosport, claimed he intended to pay for the bag, suitcase and vacuum cleaner, but forgot.
He said the camping gear was bought with the permission of a committee member so they could cook food at an event held in 2011 and he had then been given permission to keep it at his home.
He claimed the money for the goods from Makro was put through the club’s till as ‘miscellaneous’ items.
He said: ‘At no time have I set out to defraud the club of any money.’
Chairwoman of the bench, Eileen Tyler said: ‘We have taken the less-than-rigorous way the club conducted its finances into account and we find you not guilty on all counts.’
Mr Patterson added afterwards: ‘We are disappointed with the result, but we will put this behind us as a club.
‘Obviously procedures have been completely changed in the club so there is no chance this sort of thing will be allowed to happen again.’