Harpenden church treasurer jailed for five and a half years

Tim Coleman was treasurer of St John's Church in Harpenden.

Tim Coleman was treasurer of St John's Church in Harpenden. - Credit: Supplied

The treasurer of a Harpenden church has been jailed for financial irregularities in his role with a major IT firm.

Tim Coleman, 57, was sentenced to five and a half years imprisonment and was disqualified from being a director for 10 years at Southwark Crown Court.

He had found guilty of two offences of making false and misleading statements to the market, and three offences of false accounting, in his role as chief financial officer of Redcentric, an IT service provider and AIM-listed company.

Tim had been treasurer of St John's Church in St John's Road, Harpenden since April 2020, and was also a trustee of the parochial church council (PCC), although there is no suggestion of any malpractice in either role during this time.

Rev Tim Vickers, vicar of St John's, told his congregation at Sunday's service: "As a church we have been supporting and praying for Tim and his family, and all those involved, during the trial. This will continue as Tim is sentenced and begins his jail term. 

"His conviction, and the implication of it, is something we take seriously and following his conviction, Tim resigned, with immediate effect, as both treasurer and trustee of St John’s PCC.

"As we enter into the season of Lent, a season of penitence in the church year, we lament the wrong that has been done, but we hold before God all our wrong doings knowing that God’s love for us remains strong and unending.

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"We are grateful for the work Tim has done as treasurer and thank him for his time, effort and commitment."

The court heard Redcentric had issued false and misleading unaudited interim results in November 2015, and false and misleading audited final year results in June 2016.

Both materially overstated Redcentric’s cash position – by £13.1m and £12.2m respectively – and consequently misstated its net debt position by the same amount each time. When the true position was revealed, shareholders suffered immediate losses in the value of their shares.

It was found that Mr Coleman had inflated the cash position that was presented to the Redcentric board, and had used the same false figures to assure key investors about Redcentric’s financial position, persuading them not to sell down their investment in the company.

As a result of the false statements, the share price of Redcentric shares was artificially inflated, which meant that investors paid more to purchase shares than they were actually worth. 

In sentencing Mr Coleman, Judge Martin Beddoe remarked: "Your offending was persistent, significant and substantial, abusing an exceptional degree of trust. Your actions have damaged Redcentric plc and also public confidence in the City. 

"A CFO of a public company – of any company – is expected to demonstrate the highest standards of integrity. It is the bedrock upon which a company, its directors and its shareholders are entirely dependent. When people such as you are found to have failed seriously they must expect severe punishment."

Estelle Croft, 49, a former finance director at Redcentric, had previously been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment having pleaded guilty to charges of making false statements and false accounting. Ms Croft was also ordered to pay £120,346.70 following confiscation proceedings. 

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority, said: "The crimes Mr Coleman and Ms Croft committed were serious and caused harm to investors.

"The sentence handed down reflects the seriousness of the crimes and should serve as a deterrent to anyone considering committing similar offences. We will now pursue confiscation proceedings against Mr Coleman."