West Bromwich bishop jailed for stealing church funds

Gerald Edmund Edmund was exposed when he fell victim to fraud himself

A former bishop and magistrate has been jailed for two years for stealing £186,000 from church funds.

Gerald Edmund, 77, was exposed when he was tricked into believing he had inherited millions of pounds from a religious leader in the Ivory Coast.

Edmund, of the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich, was questioned by church officials when they found there was not enough money to pay bills.

The centre's bank account had been used to transfer money to Africa.

The ex-clergyman, of Lansdown Road, Bristol, admitted one count of fraud by false representation and two of theft, while serving as church treasurer and trustee between July 2010 and February 2011.

'Ashamed and humiliated'

Judge Melbourne Inman QC accepted some of the stolen money had been taken because Edmund was himself a victim of fraud.

The defence counsel, Satvir Aujla, described Edmund as a "broken man suffering ill health."

Mrs Aujla added: "He stands in the dock feeling ashamed and humiliated. He, having built his reputation over decades, has been tarnished now."

Passing sentence, Judge Inman acknowledged Edmund had done "a great deal of good" during his Christian work, but told him: "You were able to take the money because of the high degree of trust that was placed in you by your church."

'Good causes'

Det Con Simon Hughes, from West Midlands Police, said: "Initially [Edmund] claimed the money was to pay admin fees of solicitors acting for followers around the world who'd passed away and left money to the church.

"His suggestion was this would release millions of pounds so the church would ultimately benefit.

"He used his position of trust in the church to take advantage of parishioners' charitable donations, money that should have been used for essential church bills and to support good causes."

The retired pastor had been given a conditional discharge in 2001 for making false statements on a passport application when he was a magistrate.

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