The Labour Party has suspended its Wellingborough and Rushden Parliamentary candidate after he was found guilty of fraud after buying train tickets worth almost £900 using a card for a closed bank account.
Richard Garvie, 30, of Rowlett Road, Corby, who denied the charges, said he “intentionally” ran up the debt because, although he knew he did not have sufficient money in the account to pay for the 17 different transactions, he believed his bank would honour the payments.
I haven’t been dishonest in any way, I was just stupid.Richard Garvie
Fred Sagoe, prosecuting, said: “He was arrested in April 2014 after making numerous payments with a bank card he knew was for an empty account.”
Garvie was charged with fraud after he bought £890 of East Midlands Trains tickets between Kettering and London St Pancras over the course of a year through the account, as well as tickets with other train lines.
The account was closed in 2011 when it became £2,000 overdrawn.
Representing himself at Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court today, Garvie said: “I fully accept it was the case that purchases were made using an account that was overdrawn.
“I had been receiving regular statements from the bank showing the debts on the account but, because it said the account was closed in October 2011 after I had opened it in September 2011, I assumed it was a typo.
“I used the account and intentionally ran up the debt with the bank so that, when the payments to the train company didn’t authorise, the bank would honour them and add it to my own debt.
“This is what happened with other transactions I made with through that account.
“My financial plan was poor and I was completely irresponsible by choosing to run up that debt, but I don’t accept that there is any evidence that I intentionally tried to keep money from the train company.
“I haven’t been dishonest in any way, I was just stupid.”
Garvie was found guilty of fraud and will be sentenced later this year. He will still be standing for election next week as parliamentary candidates who have been convicted of an offence can only be disqualified after being sentenced to more than one year in prison.
During his trial, the court heard he had a previous conviction of travelling on a train without paying in 2008.
He said: “I have been active in helping people who have been treated wrongly by train companies and charged more than they should have been, to the point where train company staff employees have told me there are pictures of me in the staff room, telling them not to sell me tickets.
“I believe this issue is to get back at me.
“If East Midlands Trains had given me the opportunity to pay for the tickets when the situation came to light, I would have done so.”
But Mr Sagoe said: “You deliberately closed your eyes to the fact that what you were doing was wrong.”
The magistrates told Garvie: “We did not find your evidence to be that credible.
“It cannot be plausible that you did not know the account was closed and you have given no evidence to show that you thought the bank would honour the train ticket transactions.
“We are in no doubt that you acted dishonestly.”
Speaking after the trial, Garvie said: “I dispute that I have done anything wrong.
“There have been other incidences where I haven’t paid penalty fare notices because I did not feel I should have to.”
Garvie admitted he had not declared these previous charges to the Labour Party and, commenting on his election campaign before voters go to the polls next week, he added: “People need to judge me on what I have been delivering for Wellingborough and Rushden up to now and what I plan to do in the future.
“It may be that the Labour Party will no longer wish to continue to have me as a candidate and I am sure many voters will look at this and say it isn’t a good thing, but these are misdemeanours rather than offences.
“Lots of people find themselves in similar desperate situations to myself and you have to make hard decisions about which bills you pay and which you don’t.”
Garvie has reportedly been suspended by the Labour Party, although his name will still appear on the ballot paper.
Garvie has said he will appeal against his conviction.