Former head of charity for disabled admits defrauding pension scheme ‘to protect wife’

The former head of a charity for the disabled pleaded guilty to defrauding the body’s pension scheme to protect his wife from prosecution and serving a longer prison term than him, a court has heard.

Patrick McLarry pleaded guilty in November to transferring more than £250,000 from the pension scheme of Yateley Industries for the Disabled.

Sandra McLarry, 59, was charged with four counts of money laundering but the prosecution offered no evidence after her husband entered his guilty plea at Salisbury Crown Court.

At a hearing at Winchester Crown Court, McLarry unsuccessfully attempted to vacate his guilty plea, claiming he had made the decision “under pressure”, and will be sentenced at the end of the month.

McLarry told the court that he only changed his plea to guilty because he was worried about his wife’s health and because he had been advised that the prosecuting authority, The Pensions Regulator (TPR), had agreed to withdraw charges against his wife if he did so.

McLarry told the court on Friday: “Because they said she was facing the four charges against my one, they said there was a strong chance I would be out of prison long before she was.”

The 71-year-old, from Bere Alston, Devon, added that when he made the decision to change his plea he feared his wife was about to have a seizure, and added: “If she had gone into the seizure we would be talking a lot more seriously than we are now.

“That’s why, to get her out, I said I would plead guilty.”

Alex Stein, prosecuting, said the position was that: “He would consider a plea of guilty on confirmation that SM (Sandra McLarry) would not be prosecuted and would keep the family house.”

Judge Andrew Barnett refused McLarry’s application to vacate his guilty plea and adjourned the case for sentencing on January 31 and remanded the defendant in custody until then, when he faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

He said: “The defendant is someone who is strong-willed, he feels to some extent affronted, I have no doubt that his will was not overborne, it’s more a question of him finally deciding to take legal advice.”

He continued: “He alone took the decision and I am not going to exercise my discretion to allow him to change his plea. It was a perfectly proper plea of guilty.”

The judge added: “He is going to be remanded in custody, this is a serious matter, it’s inevitable there will be a prison sentence.”

A TPR spokesman said the offences were said to have taken place between April 2011 and September 2013 when McLarry was both the chief executive and chairman of the charity and a director of the corporate trustee of the charity’s pension scheme.

His wife was the secretary of the Hampshire-based charity’s board.

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