Martin Sargeant, who formerly worked in the Diocese of London, has been sentenced following his conviction for fraud by abuse of office. Mr Sargeant left the Diocese in 2019, following a review of his role instigated by the new Bishop of London. At the time there was no suspicion or evidence of criminality but, in 2021, the London Diocesan Fund (LDF) made a report to the Action Fraud unit of the Police, and a serious incident report to the Charity Commission, after a parish raised concerns about funds they had been expecting.

The fraud was historic in nature, its origins dating back to around 2009, and did not relate to the Common Fund, Bishops’ costs, or the present-day funding of parishes. In court, it was explained that Mr Sargeant had fraudulently applied for grants on behalf of City churches, and then appropriated funds for his own gain.

Over the past year, the LDF worked closely to support the Police and to maintain the confidential, sensitive nature of their complex investigation at the Police’s request. Any church or other organisation known to be relevant to these enquiries was approached as part of the investigation. The Police’s work involved extensive analysis of financial records relating to both the Diocese and Mr Sargeant over a long period and the securing of a court order to freeze his assets.

Richard Perry, Chair of the London Diocesan Fund’s Audit and Risk Committee, said:

“Following the reporting of our concerns to the authorities in 2021, our priority was to support their enquiries and, with the legal proceedings now concluded, we are continuing to work with the Police to secure the defrauded funds. Last year, our auditors carried out an urgent review of our present-day financial controls, to confirm they are robust. A further independent fraud enquiry, conducted by external forensic accountants, is being commissioned now the court case is complete, and it will report to the London Diocesan Fund’s trustees next year.”

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, added:

“I want to echo my gratitude to the Police, and to the London Diocesan Fund’s financial team, for their significant work over the past year, as they investigated the extent of this complex, historic fraud.”