Court hears closing statements in miners’ charity theft trial

A COURT was told on Friday how a former Mansfield union leader accused of stealing almost £150,000 from a charity supporting sick and elderly miners thought he was entitled to have a kitchen fitted in his home as remuneration for his work as as a company director.

Former president of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) Neil Greatrex was a director of Phoenix Nursing and Residential Home Ltd, along with co-accused ex-general secretary Mick Stevens, and claims he asked for the kitchen in lieu of a salary for his work.

Greatrex and Stevens are accused of 14 counts of theft from the home in Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire, between June 2000 and May 2006.

Martin Hurst, prosecuting, told Nottingham Crown Court both men were guilty of stealing from the charity and said Greatrex’s defence was ‘absurd.’

Mr Hurst said Greatrex accused building contractor John Minkley & Sons of lying when the company denied carrying out work at the home and claimed Greatrex instructed them to disguise work at his property as work completed on the care home.

Added Mr Hurst: “Mr Minkley was interviewed by police under caution and said he had never done any work for the care home. Why would he lie?”

He said Stevens - who claimed to have signed cheques passed to him by Greatrex’s assistant, without checking invoices, for work completed - was trying to distance himself from what he knew was going on as a man with experience in, and understanding of finance.

“His (Stevens’) character witnesses said what a good bloke he was but when it came to being the trustee of a charity he did not bother to see invoices,” said Mr Hurst.

But the men’s defence lawyers argued the jury should return not guilty verdicts. Chris Sallon, for Greatrex, said the union man had believed he was entitled to a kitchen as renumeration for his work as a director of Phoenix Nursing and Residential Home Ltd.

He said it was also not possible to prove Greatrex was invoicing the care home for work carried out at his private homes as he said he had paid in cash for private work and subcontractors had not produced any invoices for work done there.

Muluk Chawla, defending Stevens, said there was ‘not a shred of evidence of him distancing himself or acting dishonestly.’

He argued the former miner thought all the improvements to his home were paid for in cash or through Vendside - an arm of the UDM which handled compensation claims - and he was entitled to such payments as a union official.

Mr Chawla also listed a number of invoices which were found at the UDM offices at Berry Hill, Mansfield, which were not initialled by Stevens.

He said: “Mr Stevens was busy. He would have been presented with cheques all the time. If he did not have time to look at invoices that does not make him dishonest.”

The trial continues.