25 October 2014

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Sacked sports editor admits false expense claims

A former weekly newspaper sports editor has been ordered to perform 60 hours community service after admitting false expense claims.

Andrew Lodge, who lost his job at the Barnsley Chronicle last year, admitted claiming car mileage expenses worth £447.32 in respect of four journeys on which he had actually travelled by bus.

When the false claims came to light he was fired by the paper after 25 years’ service and the police called in.

Mr Lodge pleaded guilty at Barnsley Magistrates Court to an offence of fraudulently claiming £447.32 from the paper and was ordered to pay £532.32 in compensation and costs as well as carrying out the unpaid work.

During the hearing, District Judge John Foster was told that Mr Lodge did not claim meals or overnight stays in hotels to which he was entitled under his contract, and did not take days off to which he was entitled.

Hannah Walker, prosecuting, said that when the paper confronted Mr Lodge about the claims he admitted he had travelled on the bus and said he felt ‘terrible’ about it.

David Lawson, defending, said members of the Lodge family had given more than 125 years service to the Chronicle and that Mr Lodge, 45, had taken over sports editor from his father Keith.

He said although Mr Lodge had wrongly claimed mileage he had not claimed ‘subsistence’ allowances for working long hours away, including hotel bills, bus fares or meals.

He added : “There is an issue as to whether or not the paper has actually suffered a loss, and he didn’t claim time off in lieu during the season to which he was entitled.

“He has never been a greedy man, He was not highly paid and earned just £22,000 but he has lost this job he loved because of the stupid mistake he slipped into.”

Judge Foster said: “It seems to me that the charge to which you have pleaded guilty accurately reflects the amount and totality of your offence in this regard.”

25 Comments

  1. The Jackel

    What a real shame this is — a dedicated reporter who made a slight misrepresentation. Presumably if he’d opted to go in his own car there wouldn’t have been a problem.

    In my day a quick word in the ear from the editor and a “never do it again” would have been the end of it — the shame being punishment enough.

    This poor fella now has no job and a criminal conviction.

    And I wonder how many of the rest of us are thinking… “there but for the grace of God…”

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  2. Subbed Out

    My God, that seems harsh punishment for a long-serving member of staff. When I think of some of the ridiculous claims some of my former colleagues got away with, I think they were lucky not to be hanged, drawn and quartered. (My biggest crime was regularly forgetting to do my expenses. Mad, I know)

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  3. Krs1

    £22,000 for a sports editor who is probably obligated to run a car to do his job – and is therefore subsidising the newspaper itself.

    Desperate people do desperate things.

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  4. redundant hack, lancashire

    A ludicrous over-reaction by newspaper bosses which says everything about the kind of people who are now running our industry.

    ps
    I worked with a court reporter who for many years claimed 40 miles a day even though he didnt have a car! I was also regularly told to bump up my exes to the same level as everyone else! Different world……

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  5. hacker, hereabouts

    When I started on the daily I worked for and put in my first, incredibly modest, expenses claim I had it thrown back in my face by the news editor. He ordered me: “Put some more down, you’ll make the rest of us look bad only putting that in.”

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  6. Old hack in me prime

    I wonder how many unpaid hours of overtime he put in each week, well in excess of his contracted hours?

    Report this comment

  7. IsItJustMe?

    @ hacker,herabouts

    I had exactly the same conversation back in 1995 only it was thrown back at me by the editor.

    I read this story two hours ago and I am still stunned.

    Absolutely shocking!

    Report this comment

  8. Coetzee

    As a former reporter who now works in public sector PR, I am regularly reminded that faking your expenses is the easiest way to get sacked, so don’t do it.

    But the reality is on this occasion, as with so many reporters, is that your employers are not paying you for the hours you put in. Andy Lodge (a cracking reporter) has committed a crime by the letter of the law, but imagine if all reporters took legal action to ensure their pay represented their hours.

    I’m with The Jackel – a quiet word, pay it back, final warning would have been the end of it.

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  9. DAVE

    Hacker, IsItJustMe?

    I had same conversation here too. But that was in the 90s.

    Woerking after 6pm you’d put down for a “tea” regardeless of whether you bought anything or not. Same for “lunch” while working more than 30 miles from the office. As for mileage….!!

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  10. DAVE

    Apologies for the spelling in the above… I was shaking with rage.

    Report this comment

  11. Bluestringer

    Calling in the cops is a massive over-reaction typical of the pious accountants now running newspapers.

    They’ve basically destroyed this man for a trifling offence.

    I hope they sleep well in their beds tonight.

    Report this comment

  12. lensman

    Very harsh…. If i were him I would humbly ask the court to allow for the fact he has already done the ‘unpaid work’ for his newspaper.

    Report this comment

  13. Neil

    I agree with the above sentiments – criminal proceedings were a massive over-reaction. The editor should have pulled him aside, torn a strip off him and made him repay the money discreetly over a few months direct from his salary. The paper could then have sent a circular warning around the office about checking staff expense claims so that everyone understands what the paper will – and will not – tolerate.

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  14. Gretchen

    @Old hack in me prime

    What newspaper do you work at that allows reporters to claim overtime?

    Report this comment

  15. Fresh coriander

    When I joined my first daily paper I was quickly promoted to a front line reporting job where I had, legally and officially, guaranteed expenses. Yes, that’s right, a guaranteed sum as a minimum. All above board. This chap has been very harshly dealt with by both his paper and the law. I hope he reads these supportive posts and takes a crumb of comfort from them. He is not a criminal….his only crime is to have played a rather old- fashioned game in a business where it’s not hard-working badly-paid operators like him who should be punished, but the greedy profiteers who are running our wonderful papers into the ground.
    There. Going for a nap now.

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  16. Old hack in me prime

    Eeeee ‘Appen remember when tha could claim £30 per annum off the taxman for buying newspapers as an essential part of the job, even when they were all in the office?

    Report this comment

  17. jeremy, scotland

    Blimey – I did far worse things! I used to sell my receipts to reporters who did not have many expenses to claim? Would that merit jail time now?

    Report this comment

  18. John Manson

    Gosh!We would all be doing porridge,let alone community service.

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  19. former journalist

    I was told to bump up my expenses as part of living wage. Maybe this man has done it many times before but more likely he’s being used as an example. Poor bloke bet he’s lost his ‘vast’ pension….. it’s a crying shame that a reporter of 25 years is still on £22,000.

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  20. wilber

    Obviously upset a grad trainee Tristram at some point towards the end of his career. Be interesting to see who replaces him, poor sod.

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  21. J Steed

    This is another shocking example of the decline of corporate morality – and I don’t mean Mr Lodge’s

    Report this comment

  22. UnhappySnapper

    Most regional journalists on low wages (like Mr Lodge) already work many extra hours for free without any thanks from their management. Heck, if I totalled up all the free over-time I’ve put in for my bosses over the years it’d be a hell of a lot more than £447 worth so who’s the real criminal here?

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  23. Sub for my sins

    As someone else mentioned above, I hope Mr Lodge takes some comfort in the fact that very few in our industry view him as a criminal.
    Wishing him all the best for the future.

    Report this comment

  24. The Big Exclusive

    I’ve seen violent criminals walk away with less than this for unprovoked street attacks! As everyone has said, seems massively unfair and surely what’s owed for all the unpaid hours he’s worked should have been subtracted from the fine?

    It seems an absurd case but bear in mind though – due to the complexity of modern employment law, proving expense ‘fraud’ is probably the only easy way for an employer to get rid of you without paying redundancy these days.

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  25. angleic user

    sounds like he committed wrong. Agree, it was excessive action by his employer and he’s been made an example of.

    now where did i put my current expense claim…..

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