Corby woman admits fraud against cancer charity after rare private prosecution
She failed to hand over cash members of the public had donated at an event to raise funds for the charity
A Corby woman who did not hand over cash which was donated to a cancer charity at a fundraiser has admitted fraud after a rare private prosecution.
Sharon Tomkins ran a 'winter wonderland' event in 2018 and told Macmillan Cancer Support she was hosting the fundraiser on their behalf to help them.
After raising £254 - an amount she even told the charity she was disappointed with - she was asked to pay the money to Macmillan.
But she ignored repeated requests over more than 18 months for her to do so and Macmillan took the unusual step of privately prosecuting the 33-year-old because of the "lack of willingness" by authorities to look at the fraud the charity suffers.
Tomkins, of Carltonwood Close in Corby, pleaded guilty to charges of theft and fraud by abuse of position after being summonsed to appear before magistrates.
But with a pre-sentence report prepared her sentencing hearing was adjourned for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to review whether they wanted to bring a prosecution instead.
On Monday (July 12) Northampton Magistrates' Court heard Tomkins contacted Macmillan Cancer Support on August 21, 2018, to register to hold an event to raise money for them.
Prosecutor John Crawford said: "She was sent two boxes and said she was going to run a winter wonderland fundraiser.
"In a call on January 3 the following year between Tomkins and a fundraising supervisor, she told them they had raised £254.
"She was disappointed with the amount and wanted to raise more."
Macmillan then wrote to her requesting the money raised be paid to them, but their requests fell on deaf ears.
Letters were sent on May 7 and May 22, but with no response and no money paid in the matter was escalated to the charity's counter-fraud team.
Further letters were sent on September 5 and November 25 and then again in August 2020 before an email was sent in October.
Each time no reply was received and as a result Macmillan instructed solicitors to begin a private prosecution.
Tomkins, who was self-represented, said she did not want to say anything when given the chance to address magistrates.
Mr Crawford said Macmillan has taken to private prosecutions because complaints to the police don't get taken further.
He said: "There has been a complete lack of willingness to look at the fraud Macmillan Cancer Support suffers."
He added: "They find it a very productive way of protecting their interests and leading to convictions."
The court's legal adviser raised concerns that the case should be raised with the CPS to see if they wanted to take on the prosecution instead.
Mr Crawford argued this was not necessary as Tomkins had already pleaded guilty and to do so would only cost the taxpayer and add a delay to the court system.
Chairman of the bench, Amanda McMahon, adjourned the case to give the CPS the chance to review it.
Tomkins will now be sentenced next month.
What is a private prosecution?
A private prosecution is a prosecution started by a private individual or entity which is not acting on behalf of the police or other prosecuting authority.
There are a number of organisations that regularly prosecute cases before the courts of England and Wales as private individuals, using the right of any individual to bring a private prosecution. One example is the RSPCA.
The fact that a private prosecution succeeds is not an indication that the case should have been prosecuted by the CPS and there is no requirement for the CPS to take over a private prosecution.
However, there are instances where the CPS to exercise their powers either to continue the prosecution or to discontinue or stop it.
Private prosecutions are often utilised by victims of fraud in place of civil litigation as it is often considered to be cheaper and quicker.