Theft of £184,000 from Shropshire RSPCA cost five years of fundraising
The Shropshire branch of the RSPCA says the theft of £184,000 from its accounts by its then chairman had a profound affect on the work it could do and on its reputation.
Peter Ralphs, 69, took the money from the animal charity over two to three years to pay off large credit and store card bills.
It was money that should have gone to help animal welfare in Shropshire and had been raised by fundraising events or left in legacies in wills.
At Shrewsbury Crown Court on Friday, Ralphs was jailed for three years after admitting fraud between 2015 and 2017. Judge Peter Barry said proceedings to retrieve as much as the money as possible for the charity would get underway.
The judge heard a victim impact statement from Mr Richard Booker from the RSPCA.
Mr Booker said that the fraud had had a negative effect on the animal welfare service.
He said that the £184,000 represented five-and-a-half years of fundraising by the RSPCA in Shropshire, much of it in fundraising events.
Many of those events would have been run by volunteers in their spare time who would put in long hours to raise maybe £100.
He said that if that money had been spent on animal welfare it would have meant that over two years it could have paid for the rehoming of 200 cats, the neutering of 400 cats and dogs, support for RSPCA inspectors and the payment of veterinary bills for 170 animals.
Mr Booker said: “It has also had a negative effect on the morale of supporters and volunteers.”
He said the effect was not only on the Shropshire branch but on the RSPCA as a whole.
“There is concern that there will be a potential loss of trust and support from the general public that may lead to a drop in donations and donations in kind.”
Judge Barrie said that those fundraisers and volunteers had had the right to expect the money they had worked hard to raise should be used for the good work of the RSPCA and not stolen by a high ranking officer of the branch.