Hastings’ former mayor Paul Smith has been sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding community groups in the town.
Smith, 74, of Addington Grove, Lewisham, London, admitted four charges when he appeared at Hove Trial Centre earlier this month when sentence was deferred. Appearing for sentence today Smith’s solicitor Richard Body said Smith was ‘deeply ashamed and remorseful’ over what he had done.
Prosecutor Oliver Dunkin said between October 9th, 2013 and December 25th, 2016 Smith, while treasurer of Hastings and St Leonards Museum Association, abused his position as treasurer by committing fraud, intending to keep £12,276.62 for himself.
Smith, while treasurer of the Castle Ward Forum, committed the same offence between March 31st, 2014 and April 1st, 2017, intending to keep £7,316.49 for himself.
The court also heard he also committed fraud by abusing his position as treasurer for Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrat Association, intending to keep £4,250.16 for himself between February 15th, 2013 and March 5th, 2017.
Smith abused his position as treasurer of St Leonards Methodist Church between October 2nd, 2014 and February 10th, 2017 by committing fraud and intending to keep £12,408.15 for himself.
The court heard Smith had been in financial difficulties and was ‘too proud’ to claim benefits he was entitled to.
Mr Body said: “He feels he has had to leave Hastings because of the shame. He was actively involved in Hastings for many years. Hastings really was his life.
“This was a deeply foolish crime.”
Sentencing Smith, Judge Shani Barnes said: “This is an indictment that is shocking. A man who has been the mayor and councillor and worked for the community most of his life comes before me at the age of 74 having spent four years defrauding four organisations.
“This was a long-term, systematic act of dishonesty. It was a callous set of offences. The fact that you left the area tells me you walked away from the shame and refused to deal with what you did to the local community.
“You abused the trust of the community while you were in positions of power and trust. You could have applied for housing benefit and other benefits that you were entitled to but you chose a dishonest path.”