Shropshire RSPCA chairman stole £184k for clothes

Peter Ralphs Image copyright West Mercia Police
Image caption A judge said Peter Ralphs had "undermined public trust" in the RSPCA

A former RSPCA branch chairman who stole £184,000 to buy expensive clothes has been jailed.

Peter Ralphs, 69, of Sutton Road in Shrewsbury, previously admitted a charge of fraud by abuse of position of power.

The former chair of the charity's Shropshire branch has been sentenced to three years in prison.

The animal charity said it was "heartbroken" that money raised "to help animals in need" had been taken.

Ralphs stole money from the charity between 3 November 2014 and 1 January 2017, including one payment of nearly £40,000.

Retired RSPCA trustee Richard Brooker told Shrewsbury Crown Court that Ralphs' crimes had "damaged the morale" of its supporters.

The stolen money equates to about five-and-a-half year's income for the Shropshire charity, which it estimated could have been used to support 200 rescue cats and micro-chip and neuter 400 dogs.

Ralphs said he felt "tremendous guilt" for taking the money, which he said started with a £4,000 payment he was "convinced" he would repay.

'Undermined public trust'

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said it had acted immediately to investigate after concerns were raised about missing funds. The spokesman added that Ralphs had not been associated with the branch since the allegations came to light in 2017.

He said the case had involved one individual from the county's branch, which was a separate charity to the national RSPCA.

During sentencing Judge Peter Barrie said Ralphs had "undermined public trust in the organisation" and the impact of his crime had been "profound".

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