‘Despicably deviant’ dad jailed for three years after losing appeal

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An East Sussex dad who was jailed for stealing £3,500 charity money intended to be spent taking his terminally ill daughter swimming with dolphins deserved every day of his sentence, top judges ruled.

Instead of spending the donated cash on his poorly child Ashanti, who has a premature ageing disease, ‘despicably deviant’ Albi Elliott plundered the charity fund for his own purposes.

In June last year, he was found guilty of fraud and jailed for three years at Chichester Crown Court - but today took his case to the Court of Appeal in a bid for a cut in the sentence.

But after hearing the full details of the shocking case, appeal judges Lord Justice Fulford, Mr Justice Walker and Mr Justice Flaux said the 45-year-old dad deserved everything he got.

‘His offence involved a thorough and gross abuse of trust,’ said Mr Justice Walker.

The court heard the cash was donated by the Sussex British Motorcycle Owners’ Club, which had made Ashanti’s case their fund-raising choice of the year in 2010.

It was handed over in cheque form and listed to be payable to ‘A Elliott’.

It soon transpired that the money had not been paid into Ashanti’s account, but one held by her father, of Threeways Cottage, Vines Cross, Heathfield.

Records showed extensive card payments and cash withdrawals from Elliott’s account.

When arrested, he claimed he had withdrawn the money as he thought it might affect his benefit entitlement and had stashed it somewhere.

However, the jury did not believe him and he was convicted last summer.

Today, lawyers for the dad argued that the three-year sentence was too tough.

It was much longer than in other cases of fraud and did not take fully into account his personal mitigation.

In particular, the crown court judge had not taken account of the fact that Ashanti was 11 at the time of trial and likely to be in her final years.

Elliott, who had been an active part of her life, had been unable to see her in the seven months since he was jailed, the judges were told.

Refusing the appeal, Mr Justice Walker said: ‘Betrayal of the trust of his own young daughter called for a severe sentence.

‘So did the betrayal of the trust of other family members and friends who had worked hard to secure donations from others.

‘So did the betrayal of the trust of members of the motorcycle association who had, out of the goodness of their hearts, donated and raised a total of £3,500 for Ashanti.

‘Most acutely of all, the consequences of his offending, tending to damage public confidence in those who seek money for charitable causes, undoubtedly called for a severe sentence.

‘We have no doubt that the sentence of three years’ imprisonment fully allowed for Elliott’s personal mitigation.’