Greedy treasurer jailed for selling sea rescue charity's lifeboat on eBay

Fiona Parker
Raxana Bridgland, 56, a former charity treasurer who was jailed for selling a rescue boat on eBay and pocketing the proceeds - HULL NEWS @ PICTURES

A "greedy" treasurer sank her own sea rescue charity after selling its lifeboat on eBay.

Roxanna Bridgland, 56, spent five years swindling £24,500 from Cleethorpes Rescue Service, an inshore rescue charity.

The treasurer was handed a two-year prison sentence, after selling the charity's £13,000 lifeboat for £6,000 on eBay.

The effect has been extremely serious. As a direct result of your offending the charity has not survived

Judge Mark Bury

Bridgland, from Grimsby, Lincs, left the charity crippled beyond recovery after engineering the resignation of its chairman and selling stolen property for her own gain.

Hull Crown Court heard how the rescue service, which was set up in the wake of three child deaths, was left to deal with unpaid gas and electricity bills and debt collectors.

Prosecutor Geraldine Kelly told the court: "Mrs Bridgland was treasurer of the Cleethorpes Rescue Service from 2007-2012.

"During that time, she abused her position of trust by selling charity assets, not using proceeds for the charity and withdrawing cash for herself.

"She also claimed gift aid from Inland Revenue by making false claims."

The court heard how the charity was set up in 1969 after three young horse riders and an adult were cut off by a sea mist on the beach at Cleethorpes, East Lincolnshire.

At the time when Bridgland joined, the charity had a boat, Land Rover, headquarters and jet ski. The organisation  offered courses in water safety and worked alongside the RNLI and Coastguard service.

Ms Kelly told the court how Bridgland engineered the resignation of the former chairman and treasurer Peter Mason. After taking over the role as treasurer, she began stealing money and selling off its equipment.

The court heard how Bridgland made 53 visits to Cash Converters to sell off property owned by the charity, including its mobile radios.

Andrew Bailey, defending, told the court: "She had a great deal on her plate and took on too much. She inherited £20,000 in 2007 and managed to lose or spend all that.

"Her dishonesty is timed with her husband's deterioration in health from 2000. She was spending more time with him and you will see she is his registered carer.

"The charity was very poorly managed by her. It would appear that fairly swiftly she turned to dishonesty. There are some unsophisticated features. She signed all the cheques in her name. She was topping up her earnings."

Mr Bailey told the court how Bridgland is now surviving on benefits.

He added: "She only has herself to blame in many ways."

After pleading guilty to five charges of fraud and three of false accounting, Bridgland was handed a two-year prison sentence.

Addressing Bridgland, Judge Mark Bury said: "This is plainly a very sad day in your life. You fall to be sentenced for fraud and false accounting - over a five-year period up to March 2012.

"During that time you stolen nearly £25,000 and claimed £6,500 in gift aid from the government."

He added: "Your offences started when you manipulated Peter Mason out as the chairman of the charity in 2006. The effect has been extremely serious.

"As a direct result of your offending the charity has not survived.

"Notwithstanding attempts by his public-spirited wife Deborah Mason - it has not been able to be revived.

"She even had bailiffs at her doorstep requesting business tax for the boathouse. There has been a toll on her, and people of Cleethorpes. This has all been a result of your greed over a five-year period."

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