North East Wales

Plas Madoc: Miriam Beard taken to hospital before court

The head of a regeneration project who defrauded a scheme meant to help one of Wales' most deprived estates has been taken to hospital after taking tablets before she was due in court.

Miriam Beard of Henllan, Denbighshire, ended her trial at Mold Crown Court on Thursday by pleading guilty.

But her barrister Russell Davies told Judge Rhys Rowlands on Friday she was in no condition to come into court.

A proceeds of crime order hearing had been due to take place.

Beard, 55, has admitted having "milked" Plas Madoc Communities First Project in Wrexham of more than £51,000 in funds.

An ambulance had been called after it had been established that she had taken some tablets in the last hour or so, the court heard on Friday morning.

"There was clearly concern for her welfare," said Mr Davies.

Beard was taken from a side room into a waiting ambulance by paramedics.

Mr Davies told the court that there was a history to the case and there had been an attempted suicide last December.

"There have been threats of suicide in the background which have been taken very seriously, and have been properly dealt with by those instructing me," he said.

Judge Rowlands said that he would bail her pending sentence in the week beginning 5 December at Caernarfon Crown Court.

He ruled that the case should be mentioned again on Monday and he said that he was very concerned for her welfare.

He added that he would need to be persuaded not to revoke her bail at that stage.

During the trial, the court heard that she helped herself and her family to more than £50,000 of the charity's money.

She had initially denied the allegations, along with charges of lying about her age and qualifications.

But on Thursday she pleaded guilty to nine of 12 charges.

These included accusations that she had paid her son more than £18,000 for the use of a caravan owned by the Welsh assembly-backed Plas Madoc project.

She allowed him to pay for £4,000 worth of fuel using the organisation's money and she had made up claims about a range of services provided for young people so she could help herself to the £25,000 the non-existent services were supposed to have cost.

Image caption Miriam Beard ran the Plas Madoc Communities First project at Wrexham

The Plas Madoc Communities First Project began back in 2001 and as early as 2003 concerns were being raised about the way scheme was monitored and audited.

Beard only joined the project in 2003 and the offences which she has now pleaded guilty to took place between 2007 and 2009.

Paul Blackwell, who represents the ward of Plas Madoc on Wrexham council, said before Friday's court hearing it had been a difficult period for those on the project.

'Huge questions'

"It's a shame she didn't plead guilty any earlier because she's put a lot of people through the mill having to give evidence," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"I think the community is quite gutted she came into the community and stole £51,000."

A former co-ordinator of Plas Madoc Communities First, the Plaid Cymru North Wales AM Llyr Huws Gruffydd said there were "huge questions" to be asked about the running of the project.

"It was a systematic pattern of milking a scheme set up to serve the people of Plas Madoc."

Mr Gruffydd said questions need to be asked about about how Communities First was run.

Image caption James and Miriam Beard arriving at Mold Crown Court for a previous hearing

Frank Biggs said he did try to raise his concerns when he worked there temporarily.

He said: "I was actively telling them that things were not right here and there should be an audit but nothing was ever done.

"A lot of AMs were told about it, a lot of senior politicians were informed by myself that things were not right but nobody actually did anything. I don't understand why."

Beard's son, Daryl Kelly, 35, of Greater Manchester, admitted six charges against him at an earlier pre-trial review in Cardiff.

His case will also be listed for a proceeds of crime order on Friday. He will also be sentenced next month.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We welcome this development. We take any misuse of public funds very seriously and have reviewed our working practices to ensure that they are robust.

"It is important that this case does not detract from the good work that is being achieved via the Communities First programme.

"The case accounts for a minuscule proportion of the Communities First budget, which is currently over £40m a year."

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