Hertfordshire festival founder jailed for Tesco fraud

PUBLISHED: 18:42 03 February 2011 | UPDATED: 09:40 06 February 2011

Alexander Trenchard, seen here at a public exhibition of Tesco's WGC development proposals, was jailed for two and a half years

Alexander Trenchard, seen here at a public exhibition of Tesco's WGC development proposals, was jailed for two and a half years

Archant

A TESCO PR guru – who helped promote the supermarket’s controversial WGC development – has been jailed for swindling his employers out of £355,000 to fund a music festival.

The Standon Calling festival, which led to Alexander Trenchard racking up huge debts on his Tesco company credit card

Alexander Trenchard, Tesco’s former corporate affairs manager and eldest son of Hugh 3rd Viscount Trenchard, racked up huge debts on his company credit card in order to sustain his annual summer music festival Standon Calling, Aylesbury Crown Court heard today (Thursday).

Trenchard – a prominent media figure in Tesco’s controversial plans to build a supermarket on the former Shredded Wheat site in Broadwater Road, WGC – had become obsessed with running the festival in the grounds of his family’s country home, the 16th century Standon Lordship, near Ware.

In 10 years, what started off as a birthday party for him and some friends had grown into an annual summer event, with bands including Florence and the Machine, Super Furry Animals and Friendly Fires all playing there in the past.

But, the court heard, it was the massive debt Trenchard ran up in staging the festival that was to lead to his offending.

"Standon Calling is a festival which has always been run by this defendant. He became completely obsessed with it."

Alexander Trenchard’s defence lawyer Patrick Gibbs

By 2007, he was already using his own £70,000 a year salary with Tesco to make up the shortfall and pay off debts linked to the festival.

It was following that festival that Trenchard began using the credit card supplied to him by Tesco for work expenses as a way of obtaining cash to pay bills.

Kevin West, prosecuting, told the court: “He had been using the credit card to withdraw cash and pay for things not related to his job.”

In total, he obtained £196,000. With the clearing of debts and bills, Tesco’s loss came to £355,000.

Patrick Gibbs, defending, called Trenchard’s offending a “serious breach of trust.”

Mr Gibbs said “Standon Calling is a festival which has always been run by this defendant.

“He became completely obsessed with it.”

All the money has since been paid back by Trenchard’s parents, who were in court as their son sat in the dock with his head bowed.

Trenchard, 32, pleaded guilty to one offence of theft and one offence of fraud by false representation.

Sentencing the married father-of-two to 30 months, Judge Tyrer said: “I accept this became an obsession, rather like gambling, but the fact is it went on for a significant amount of time.”

A spokesman for Tesco refused to comment.


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