Former South Yorkshire priest ‘stole £24,000 of funeral and wedding money’

Church of England vicar Simon Reynolds, 50, leaves Sheffield Crown Court, where he is accused of keeping fees handed over to him by bereaved families and engaged couples when he was priest-in-charge of All Saints Church in Darton, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire.  Photo credit: Dave Higgens/PA Wire
Church of England vicar Simon Reynolds, 50, leaves Sheffield Crown Court, where he is accused of keeping fees handed over to him by bereaved families and engaged couples when he was priest-in-charge of All Saints Church in Darton, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Photo credit: Dave Higgens/PA Wire
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A former South Yorkshire priest kept more than £24,000 that was paid for from weddings and funerals a court heard.

Simon Reynolds, aged 50, of Upper Church Lane, Farnham, Surrey, is accused of pocketing fees handed over to him by bereaved families and engaged couples when he was priest-in-charge of All Saints Church in Darton, near Barnsley.

Reynolds is alleged to have stolen £9,754 meant for Darton All Saints Parochial Parish Council and £14,604 which should have gone to Wakefield Diocesan Board of Finance.

The accused appeared at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday to deny four counts of theft relating to his stint as priest from March 2007 to March 2013.

The jury was told that Reynolds had a responsibility to hand over fees worth £24,000 but didn’t.

The prosecutor explained how suspicions about Reynolds began after he left Darton, in March 2013, to take up a new post at a church in Surrey.

A church warden thought it was ‘irregular’ that a fees cheque from a stonemason relating to a church yard monument was made out personally to the former vicar.

Mr Storey said: “It was discovered that in some years the defendant had not paid any fees for weddings or funerals over to the Diocesan Board of Finance.

“The impression this created was that he had not conducted any weddings or funerals at the church for those years.”

An investigation carried out by church treasurer, Anthony Warden, found that the church held 18 weddings in 2008 and Reynolds conducted eight.

He said the diocese should have received a fee of £150 for each wedding - a total of £1,200

However, Mr Storey said only handed gave £555.

He said Mr Warden concluded that there was a £4,594 shortfall in fees for weddings over Reynolds’ period at the church.

“The prosecution say that it is a reasonable inference that this shortfall was money which the defendant received but which he never declared or remitted and, therefore, that he kept it for himself.

“This is a significant breach of trust from the Church of England priest, he has abused his position.” Mr Storey added.

Reynolds was later arrested in November 2013 and told police he didn’t take the money to pay for ‘day to day’ living expenses.

The trial continues.