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Former charity boss Kevin Wright has prison sentence cut as an 'act of mercy'

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 19, 2014

Kevin Wright

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A con-artist father, jailed for stealing thousands from charities he set up to help sick children - including one for his own son - has had his sentence cut as an 'act of mercy' after top judges heard his son has been ill through missing his dad.

Kevin John Wright set up an appeal in 2005 after his son, Bobby - then aged three - was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an agressive form of cancer.

Generous members of the public, and other charities, handed over thousands of pounds in the belief the funds would be used for Bobby's specialist treatment in the US, which was not available in the UK.

However, after the little boy made a remarkable recovery and it was decided he no longer needed the treatment, Wright did not give back the cash, instead spending it 'building his business empire'.

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He then set about setting up fundraising appeals for other sick children, which London's Criminal Appeal Court heard he 'had no intention' of handing over from the outset.

The court heard that, while he spent around £400,000 on providing help and support to the parents of other ill children - some of whom wrote glowing testimonials - he spent a large proportion of the cash on the charities' overheads and on his own personal expenses.

Wright, of Quince, Tamworth, but who formerly lived in Exeter, was jailed for five years at Nottingham Crown Court in September last year, after being found guilty of 10 counts of theft and two of fraud by false representation.

But his sentence was today cut to four years by three of the country's most senior judges, who said that, while Wright did not 'earn or deserve' a cut in his sentence, they had seen information indicating his incarceration has had a 'harmful effect' on Bobby - now aged 11.

Lord Justice Treacy said: "It is perfectly plain to us that father and son were very close and that the father devoted very substantial energies in looking after and seeking treatment and help for his ill son.

"It is clear, and we accept, that Bobby has been affected by his father's absence - we accept that it has been a stressful experience for the child, in circumstances where it is important that he remains stress free.

"There is some evidence before us that there has been a positive and harmful effect on that child, as a result of the deprivation for him of his father's company."

The judge, sitting with Mr Justice King and Judge Stephen Kramer QC, told the court Wright initially started fundraising through a genuine desire to pay for his son's treatment at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

He set up the Bobby Wright Cancer Fund and fundraising, from the sale of raffle tickets and collections, was at first carried out by volunteers, but Wright later set up a call centre in an outbuilding at his home and employed paid staff.

The total amount raised at that point was around £883,000, which included donations of £30,000 each from charities Caudwell Children and Janet Nash.

But by mid-January 2007, Bobby no longer needed treatment, as he had made a recovery which Wright attributed to a special regime he had devised for his son.

News of this reached other families with sick children and, after they contacted Wright for help, he provided them with care packs for their children - which the court heard cost about £10,000 each.

By the end of 2007, the original funds had run dry so he targeted other families with poorly children, who had contacted him for help, and set up fundraising appeals for them.

He led those families to believe the campaigns would be run by volunteers, when in fact a large amount of the cash raised went on staffing costs.

The parents of those children contacted police after Wright refused to hand over cash for their treatments.

The judge said that, while there were a number of testimonials from families who Wright had helped, he was not spending the money in the way members of the public believed it would be spent when they agreed to donate.

There were also other amounts he spent on his own personal expenses, £20,000 he loaned a friend with a used-car business, and several thousands put into Premium Bonds.

Another £30,000 was used to buy a restaurant in Exeter, which closed after two weeks and he also invested in a pub in Devon.

The court heard Wright had a number of previous convictions for dishonesty, although all of these were before 2000.

Sentencing him, Judge Gregory Dickinson said Wright had "abused the generosity of the public" and that his actions "risked damaging public confidence in the system of charitable giving".

Challenging the length of his sentence, Wright's lawyers argued that the crown court judge didn't take enough account of the fact he had genuinely helped people and that there was new information about the devastating effect of his imprisonment on his son.

His barrister, Nicolas Gerasimidis, said: "It is nonetheless the case that Bobby is suffering, the family as a whole is suffering, and it may be that, if your lordships were to take the view that this sentence could have been lower, then that suffering may be reduced."

Lord Justice Treacy said that, while the original sentence could 'in no way' be criticised, the up-to-date information about the effects on Bobby of his father's imprisonment, allowed them to reduce the term 'solely as an act of mercy'.

The judge said the court had seen information provided by a therapist who has been involved in Bobby's care, that there has been some 'deterioration in his physical health'.

He added: "We therefore have come to the conclusion that, in the circumstances as they are before us now, and solely as an act of mercy in relation to the well-being of the young child, we are prepared to countenance a reduction in the sentence.

"We stress, it is not something which is in any way earned of deserved by this appellant - it is a pure act of mercy on the part of this court, having regard to the consequences of his imprisonment on the child."

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  • 34Eric  |  February 20 2014, 6:29PM

    He'ii be back to his old ways and threatening violence to those who disagree with him in days of his release.

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  • 1RTEatsea  |  February 19 2014, 3:08PM

    Have their Lordship flipped?? People stealing monies donated for charity are the worst sort ever. And Wright is a specimen of such thieves. Their Lordships should also have taken account of the irreparable harm such parasites do for solid worthy causes. The public are far less willing to donate to such causes because of the uncertainty of the administration of the funds. And the other children who were denied treatment from the funds he raised in their name. I am sincerely sorry for Bobby having been the subject of illness, and the fact he now has to cope with missing his father. Like thousands of other kids whose parents are locked up! But he arrears to have had a miracle recovery from a normally terminal condition. That said, their Lordships should have doubled the sentence for Wright.

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