Doncaster sticker seller Phillip Hartley cries in court during Cancer Research fraud trial
Doncaster sticker seller Phillip Anthony Hartley has been found not guilty of defrauding Cancer Research after he was found asking for donations in the charity’s gear and shaking a collecting box in London.
Hartley, 38, was arrested in London’s Leicester Square in April sporting a Cancer Research hat, t-shirt and rattling a collecting tin branded with the company’s logo.
But after a three hour trial at City of London Magistrates earlier today, justices said they could not find that the items had definitely been used to commit fraud.
Hartley, who describes himself as the Love Campaigner, burst into tears in court several times and wailed as he pleaded his innocence telling the bench: “I’m bawling my eyes out here,” as he wept in the dock, sporting a t-shirt that said ‘ask me about my stickers.’
The court heard how Hartley had been arrested in the capital on April 6 after he ‘jokingly’ approached a number of police officers, asking them for donations to Cancer Research while wearing a hat which said ‘Donate Now’ as well as t-shirt and clutching a collection tin, which the seal had been broken on.
When the officers declined to contribute, Hartley yelled at them: “How many fines have you given out for Covid today?,’ raising suspicions that he was not a genuine collector and prompting police to launch an investigation.
Hartley, of Christ Church Road, denied one count of fraud by false representation and one of possessing articles for use in fraud, namely a collection tin with Cancer Research sticker, a Cancer Research UK t-shirt and Cancer Research UK hat.
Insisting on being referred to in court only as Phillip and not Mr Hartley, he admitted that he wasn’t collecting for the charity and had simply been selling stickers with *F*** Coronavirus” on them, adding: “I don’t sell stickers for charity, I sell them for me and choose to give 50 per cent to Cancer Research.”
The court heard how Cancer Research had asked Hartley, who previously used the name Phillip L’Estrange, to stop fundraising for them last year after he made boasts online of raising £30,000.
The charity began investigating after Hartley could only account for £1,500 of the money and the case was passed to Action Fraud and the Charity Commission who both launched investigations.
After receiving a generic fundraising email from the charity earlier this year, Hartley took that as a personal invitation to raise funds and headed to the capital in his Cancer Research get-up.
When he was arrested by police, he ranted about drug dealers being allowed to beg for drugs on the streets, telling officers: “If people can beg for death, surely I can beg for life,” and admitted that not all of the money in the tin was for Cancer Reseach, with half going to him as ‘a wage.’
He told officers that he had been authorised to collect and urged them to contact Cancer Research to confirm.
In interviews after his arrest, Hartley protested his innocence and refused to answer questions, with police describing his responses as ‘incoherrent ramblings.’
Justices heard that Hartley had kept the t-shirt which he had been given legitimately for an earlier fundraising event, along with the tin, which he admitted to breaking the seal on to take money out.
Representing himself in court, he said he had bought the hat off a woman at Doncaster Interchange for £5 a few years previously.
Cancer Research fraud manager Phil Sapey said that street collectors needed authorisation and a letter of ID to raise funds in the street – of which Hartley had neither.
Westminster Council also said Hartley was not authorised to collect on its streets.
He added: “People can request boxes and merchandise from us for fundraising events. The problem is a lot of people abuse our brand to pass it off as collecting for Cancer Research."
Added Mr Sapey: “He said on social media he’d raised £30,000 and there was no evidence of where that money was. When we asked him, he didn’t give a satisfying answer.”
He said that people who had previously donated to the charity would receive generic emails and letters asking people to fundraise if they had been added to the company’s database.
Prosecuting, the Crown said that Hartley had been wearing the clothes to ‘deliberately mislead’ people into thinking money going into the box was going to Cancer Research.
"If someone is dressed up as a collector, you assume they are a collector,” it said.
In his defence, Hartley, who was repeatedly told to stop interrupting proceedings, said that Cancer Research had sent him a number of letters asking him to be ‘part of their team’ and claimed he had raised ‘£20 million for charity.’
Hartley, who admitted to being an ex-drug addict, said he had £6 in the tin when he was stopped by police was also carrying a portfolio showing photos of his charity achievements and said: “I sell my stickers to get by. They are not for charity, they are mine.
"I choose to give 50% of my money to Cancer Research.”
As the folder was leafed through in court, he began sobbing and wailing and had to be handed a glass of water by the court clerk as he composed himself, saying: “I’m really upset.”
"I was not acting fraudulently, I was just joking and asked if they would like to buy a sticker for a quid. I was in my heart acting completely 100% truthfully and lawfully in memory of my grandma and grandad. I speak the truth and I’ve come here to speak the truth.”
On the charge of false representation, the justices said there was no evidence of what Hartley intended to do with the money and gave him the benefit of the doubt when finding him not guilty.
On the charge of being in possession of articles for use in fraud, the bench said that because anyone could get hold of Cancer Reseach merchandise such as t-shirts, hats and collection tins for use in fundraising, he was free to wear it as such and so was not in possession of an article for use in fraud.
Hartley, who prayed as the not guilty charges were read out, punched the air and screamed in delight as he was cleared.