Alan Barnes fundraiser Katie Cutler loses court case over PR debts
A woman who raised more than £300,000 for a mugged disabled pensioner has lost a court case over an unpaid publicity bill.
Katie Cutler, 23, of Gateshead, set up an internet appeal to help Alan Barnes, 68, who is 4ft 6in (1.37m) and registered blind.
PR consultant Claire Barber said she agreed a £550 daily fee with Miss Cutler for publicity, but was not paid.
A Newcastle County Court judge ordered Miss Cutler to pay £6,200.
Miss Cutler claimed the fees were to be paid from a planned charitable foundation that subsequently failed to take off, and not out of her own pocket.
The mother of one, who received a British Empire Medal for her charity work in last year's Queen's Birthday Honours, told a judge in chambers that the dispute had left her feeling "stressed".
During the hearing it emerged Mr Barnes wrote a cheque for Ms Barber in October for the full amount owed but she refused to cash it because she felt he had been pressured.
The PR consultant said: "Alan Barnes felt tremendously pressurised, he has also been trolled. Everyone knows Alan has a disability. He is a really lovely guy.
"I didn't know what to do because it's not Alan that owes the money so I held on to the cheque and waited to speak to the judge to see what to do.
"It's not Alan who owes the money, it is Katie."
She added she had tried to avoid suing but had to act after Miss Cutler gave interviews describing her firm as "rogue".
After the hearing, a tearful Miss Cutler said she would not undertake any further charity work and that cash raised via another online fundraising website would be used to settle the outstanding debt.
She said: "Money has been raised to pay that amount, but I haven't received that money yet so it might be a little while.
"I'm happy that I have done some nice things and have helped some people.
"But because of this I will not do any more charity work. I won't take part in anything for anyone else because I am so disappointed."
Ms Barber said: "Katie could have sorted this out easily. I gave her a year to pay it back but at every point, instead of contacting me, she kept giving interviews to the media.
"She gave me no choice."
Miss Barber acted for Ms Cutler for four months and told the court she probably worked "triple" the 14-and-a-half hours that she billed her client.
Deputy District Judge Nathan Adams said the disputed bill came down to contract law and he turned down Ms Cutler's application to challenge a previous County Court judgment in favour of Ms Barber.
Mr Barnes suffered a broken collarbone when he was knocked to the ground outside his Gateshead home in January 2015.
A total of £330,135 was raised from donations to the online appeal.
Richard Gatiss, 25, was later jailed for four years for assault.