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Festival boss jailed for charging debts to Tesco

By | Published on Friday 4 February 2011

Standon Calling

The founder of the Standon Calling festival, Alexander Trenchard, was jailed for two and a half years yesterday after he was found guilty of theft and fraud by false representation, having run up debts of almost £200,000 in relation to the running of the festival on the company credit card provided to him by his employer, Tesco.

Trenchard, the eldest son of Viscount Trenchard, began the festival in the grounds of his family’s sixteen century home in 2001, initially as a small party for friends. It has since grown to a 5000 capacity festival open to the public, though the event has always remained a not-for-profit venture, and donated some of its revenues to charity.

The court heard that Trenchard had begun using his company credit card, provided to him in his role as Corporate Affairs Manager at Tesco, to provide some cash flow for the festival in 2007, having already pumped his £70,000 salary into the project. But the festival that year made a loss, making it impossible to pay the unofficial loan back.

Further losses two years later added to the amount of money Trenchard had taken, while he also employed a fraud technique known as “cut and paste” to temporarily raise the credit limit on the card. By the time the fraud was uncovered by a company audit last year, the Standon man had spent £196,000 of Tesco’s money on the festival, a figure which grew to £355,000 when related fees were added.

The court heard that, when interviewed by Tesco security staff in May last year, Trenchard immediately made a full confession, and it was discovered he had already been composing an email admitting to his misdeeds. He was subsequently arrested by Hertfordshire Police, with whom he co-operated fully.

Trenchard’s lawyer, Patrick Gibbs, admitted that his client’s actions had been a “serious breach of trust”, but added that the two words that summed up the defendant were: “kind and obsessed”. He said: “Standon Calling is a festival which has always been run by this defendant. He became completely obsessed with it. He has let down his family, his wife and two children, [and is] thoroughly ashamed”.

The court also heard that Trenchard’s parents have repaid Tesco all the debts run up by their son, but that he was expected to pay them back once out of prison. Ruling that Trenchard should spend 30 months in prison, the judge said: “I accept this became an obsession, rather like gambling, but the fact is it went on for a significant amount of time”.

Despite all this, organisers of Standon Calling have announced that this year’s festival will still go ahead on 11-14 Aug, with the first line-up announcement due later this month.

Festival Director Graham MacVoy said in a statement: “I know that Alex very much regrets his actions and feels great remorse for the distress he has caused, but the festival is about more than just one person. Standon Calling 2010 was a resounding success and we are building on that”.

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