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A priest who defrauded the Church of England of nearly £50,000 in funeral fees will not face jail time.
Dr. Andrew Hawthorne stole tens of thousands of pounds in fees from grieving family members, after failing to declare a number of ceremonies he officiated.
An investigation found that the former assistant curate at St. George's Church, Dorset retained £49,059 between 2009 and 2013, which should have been paid to the Diocese of Winchester.
Andrew Robinson, Chief Executive of the Winchester Diocesan Board of Finance, said:"Andrew Hawthorne's conduct in personally retaining funeral fees constituted a serious breach of the trust placed in clergy by churches, communities and families seeking the ministry of the Church at times of great sadness and vulnerability.
"The Diocese suspended him in 2012 after we uncovered financial irregularities. In 2015, a clergy discipline tribunal ruled that he had been dishonest in retaining a very significant sum in fees he was not entitled to keep.
"After that tribunal concluded we passed all of the evidence to the police, and we have been working closely with Hampshire Constabulary's Economic Crime Unit on this case since then.
"We are grateful for their thorough investigation of such a complex fraud case, which has resulted in his conviction for a very serious crime."
Winchester crown court found Mr. Hawthorne guilty of two counts of fraud and gave him a two - year suspended sentence.
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