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Sargeant Sentenced to Five Years for Fraud

Former Diocese of London official Martin Sargeant was sentenced to five years for defrauding a diocesan fund by over £5 million.

Sergeant, Head of Operations for the Two Cities area of the diocese, had access to the funds of the Trust for London, set up in 1891 for the restoration of church buildings. He used the money to fund his gambling habit, personal entertainment, and more than 180 British Airways flights. He pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position. A second charge of money laundering was left to lie on file.

At an earlier hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, it was stated that he had diverted around £5.2 million of church money to fund a lifestyle of gambling and flights to the USA once or twice a month. Prosecutor Malachy Pakenham hailed such activities as ‘quite an achievement’, claiming, “I should imagine even Alan Whicker in his day wouldn’t have clocked up as many flights as this defendant did over this period.”

It has emerged that at the time of his appointment, Sargeant had already served a twenty-one-month prison term for offences including nineteen counts of theft against previous employers. Sargeant insists he had disclosed this to the church.

Martin Sergeant took up his role in 2007 under the previous Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, with a starting salary of £56000. By the time he left in 2019, his salary had risen to £86000. In a public address given in 2015, Bishop Chartres acknowledged Sergeant as a remarkable layman whose “negotiating skills and attention to detail were crucial in turning ideas into profitable ventures”.

It is not clear who had appointed Martin Sargeant. Bishop Chartres insists he did not; the Diocese of London says he was not on the payroll. Sargeant was a close associate of former Archdeacon of London, Ven. Peter Delaney, and he entered the diocesan structures while Delaney held office.

A 2022 review of diocesan structures at that time did not mention Martin by name, but made reference to “an influential senior member of staff … [who] was not employed by the diocese, no personnel file appears to have been kept on him and it is difficult to understand where the role sat in terms of hierarchy and more importantly accountability.”

In February 2019, shortly before he left his position, Sargeant met senior diocesan colleagues for the purpose of “downloading his corporate memory” . This included a ‘brain dump’ of safeguarding concerns from his years in the diocese. Information shared at this meeting included the uncorroborated allegations about the Revd Alan Griffin’s private life. The cleric had retired from the Church of England in 2011, and had been ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in 2012. These unfounded allegations followed him and were being investigated by both Anglican and Roman authorities. Great distress was caused to Alan Griffin by these ongoing vague investigations and he took his own life in November 2020.

The Learning Lessons Review following the tragedy was published in July 2022. While this independent report did not mention Martin Sergeant by name, he is described as “an influential senior member of staff”. The report is strongly critical of Sargeant’s behaviour as Head of Operations.

“It is abundantly clear that this individual was allowed to function with little accountability or supervision during the tenure of the former bishop. Had such accountability and supervision been in place then many of the issues referred to in later interviews would have been resolved at the time they were allegedly taking place.”