Newham

Former youth offending boss stripped of his OBE

26 February 2013 in Community safety
A former youth offending team boss who defrauded Newham Council out of nearly £300,000 was being stripped of his OBE today (26 Feb).​
Kerry Butler and Peter Nicholson
Peter Nicholson, 58, was jailed for five and a half years last year. He created a gang of "ghost" employees and stole the wages they generated to pay for lavish holidays.
 
He was awarded the OBE in 2005 for services to youth and community justice in London while head of the council's youth offending team. Today, the award was withdrawn by the Cabinet Office's honours forfeiture committee, which can act if a recipient has been jailed for more than three months or expelled from a professional body.
 
Nicholson was jailed following an investigation and prosecution by Newham Council. The Council is currently seeking to recover the money he defrauded by forfeiting the amount from his local government pension scheme. The Council has also applied to the court to confiscate any assets which were criminally gained and resulting from the fraud.
 
A Newham Council spokesperson said: "Peter Nicholson systematically abused his in depth knowledge of the system. We employed him in good faith and he abused that trust. He betrayed us and many other people.
 
"Newham Council has a zero-tolerance approach to fraudulent use of taxpayers' money. It cannot - and will not - be tolerated under any circumstances. We have rigorous systems in place to detect this sort of practice.
 
"The council constantly reviews its procedures in line with its best practice approach and we will do everything we can to ensure this episode goes unrepeated. We routinely conduct internal audits to ensure council taxpayers' money is being spent properly."
 
Nicholson fronted a gang of fraudsters who claimed wages for 'ghost' employees of the council.
 
He arranged trips to Canada for himself and relatives, all at the expense of the local authority, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
 
In February 2005, he and 10 others had a 10-day break in Canada worth £4,000.
He had previously booked a nine-day break to Canada for himself and his daughter using council funds in 2002.
 
The con took place while he was head of the Youth Offending Team between 20 May, 2000, and 31 August, 2007.
 
Nicholson's duties involved co-ordinating efforts to rehabilitate young people who had committed crimes.
 
He was found guilty of five counts of conspiracy to defraud following an eight-week trial.
 
Nicholson authorised payment of three non-existent employees by the council in order to siphon off the cash.
 
Passing sentence last year, Judge Neil Sanders said Nicholson had abused the "very high degree of trust" placed in him by the council by setting up the "sophisticated" scam.
 
Prosecutor Alexander Goudie said the total amount stolen was £281,771.90.
 
Scott Wainwright, defending Nicholson, said he was a "broken man" and had lost everything due to the scam.
 
Meanwhile, last month (January, 2013), a co-conspirator of Nicholson, Kerry Butler, was jailed for two years.
 
Kerry Butler, 47, from Bexleyheath, the sister of Nicholson's former long-term partner, was the owner of a recruitment agency, through which 'ghost' temporary agency staff were charged to the council.
 
She was originally tried with Nicholson but after a hung jury there was a retrial. In January (11), she was sentenced to two years' jail at Snaresbrook Crown Court. She had been found guilty by a jury in December 2012 of one count of conspiracy to defraud the council of £80,000.