A priest who was caught fraudulently using a dead parishioner's Blue Badge has been fined and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Father William Haymaker, 63, of Suffolk Road in Bexhill was given a 12-month community order with a requirement to carry out the unpaid work and ordered to pay £3,700 in costs after a hearing at Hove Crown Court yesterday (Monday, September 11).
Haymaker, who is part of St Paul’s Anglican Parish in Bexhill, was caught in December 2015 parking his car in a disabled bay in the town using a Blue Badge belonging to a woman who had died two months earlier.
The priest, who appeared at court with his official clerical dog The Venerable Mr Piddles, had been found guilty of the offence in March although sentencing was delayed for several months.
In sentencing, Judge Christine Henson told him: “You used a disabled person’s Blue Badge that did not belong to you to commit fraud. You’ve been convicted of a serious offence and you must be punished for it.”
When interviewed by the county council’s Blue Badge investigation officer, Haymaker originally denied the offence. He claimed he had meant to use a badge belonging to one or two different people - one of whom he claimed to have dropped off at a doctor’s surgery in Bexhill.
After investigations found this was untrue, he still refused to admit the offence and pay a fine, and at trial named yet another woman he thought the badge had belonged to, although she had never owned a Blue Badge.
Speaking after the court proceedings, East Sussex County Council Blue Badge investigation officer Mark Jobling said: “As an ordained priest, Haymaker is someone in a position of considerable responsibility and trust, who ought to set a good example for others to follow.
“Instead, he shamelessly used a Blue Badge belonging to a woman who had died and then tried to talk his way out of trouble with a series of excuses the jury unanimously rejected. Blue Badge fraud is not a victimless crime and every time someone uses a badge illegally they are denying a disabled parking space to people who genuinely need one.
“This successful prosecution should demonstrate that we treat these offences with the utmost seriousness and won’t hesitate to bring offenders to justice through the courts.”
Anyone who has information regarding misuse of Blue Badges is asked to report it by calling 01323 464244 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Eddie Mitchell.
Editor's note: We have been asked by Revd Peter Gadsen of St Paul’s Evangelical Free Church in Bexhill to make clear that Father Haymaker, who is a rector at St Paul's Anglican Parish, is unconnected to his ministry and the Church of England.