Suspended sentence for ex-boss who stole £40,000 from castle charity

A former director of a 12th-century castle has been handed a suspended jail sentence after admitting stealing £40,000 from the charity that runs it.

Jac Davies, 34, was labelled a “thoroughly dishonest individual” for taking thousands of pounds out of Cardigan Castle, which included using a company credit card to spend on shopping, online apps, and a five-star luxury resort.

The castle in Ceredigion, West Wales, won Channel 4’s Great British Buildings Restoration of the Year competition in 2017, two years after it was reopened by volunteers Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust.

But the successful campaign to restore the two-acre castle site to its former glory began to be undermined just months after the TV show win when business operations manager Davies began misusing the charity’s funds.

On Thursday, Swansea Crown Court heard Davies created a fake receipt for an online hospitality management course he never actually enrolled on, managing to convince the charity to “reimburse” him for £4,143 in December 2017.

Between October 2018 and May 2019, Davies stole £1,098 of takings from the castle’s online shop by setting up a PayPal account in his own name rather than by using the charity’s bank account.

Davies also failed to cash-in £5,616 received by the castle’s shop between May 2018 and May 2019, which he suggested to colleagues may have been stolen by others when he placed envelopes full of cash on an office windowsill.

Prosecutor Danielle Lodwig said Davies then spent £28,955 using a company credit card between February and November 2019, including at the five-star Celtic Manor Resort, which hosted the 2014 Nato summit and 2010 Ryder Cup.

She said: “Davies has made various personal transactions using that card to companies such as Next, Prime Video, iTunes, Tesco, and the Celtic Manor Resort.

“No evidence was provided by him to support these were charges for anything to do with the castle.”

Ms Lodwig said the loss to the charity was £43,052, including through increased insurance premiums and work to replace the castle’s locks due to Davies not returning his master key after his discrepancies were investigated.

Davies initially denied any wrongdoing in police interviews, before later admitting he had “fallen on hard times” and has since lodged some £40,000 with his solicitors ready to repay.

At an earlier hearing he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of theft.

Judge Paul Thomas told Davies: “There can be no other description of you, I’m afraid, other than you are a thoroughly dishonest individual.”

He said Davies knew his actions “would put the charity’s finances under strain”, and said that positive character references from his friends and associates showed he had “managed to fool them”.

Davies, from Dol Y Dintir, Cardigan, was sentenced to 21 months in jail, suspended for two years, and ordered to undergo a 15-day rehabilitation activity and carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

A hearing in two weeks time will determine the final figure Davies will need to repay.

The Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Board said in a statement there was “no threat to the viability of the charity or the castle complex” due to the lost money, and that its focus “is very much on securing another successful year”.

Cardigan Castle, which overlooks the River Teifi, was built in the 12th century and includes medieval buildings and walls, with a 19th-century Regency addition known as Castle Green House.