Charity founder sent to jail
THE founder of charity Kidscan Ltd, Andrew Stewart, was convicted of dishonestly obtaining money to the value of more than $5,000 in Bowen District Court yesterday.
The 52-year-old was sentenced to three years imprisonment, with eight months of that to be served before early release will be considered. Kidscan Ltd was set up to enable Mr Stewart to host children with terminal illnesses and their families for a week's holiday in the Whitsunday region, specifically in his house at 3 Jones Road, Cannonvale.
Throughout the case, the court was told by Mr Stewart's counsel that he had set the charity up with good intentions but that lack of funding and difficulties finding suitable families had prevented the charity from achieving success.
Justice Robert Pack said during sentencing that he was prepared to take the view that Mr Stewart started Kidscan with genuine charitable intentions but somewhere along the way he took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself and used money raised for personal expenditure. Justice Pack reasoned that a man of Mr Stewart's education and business background would not be under the false illusion that people would be prepared to pay money to a charity that was meant to be hosting families if it in fact was not.
The judge's acceptance that the charity was started, and for a period of time operated, in good faith meant that rather than base the prison term on the presented charge that Stewart had dishonestly obtained $98,224, he was more comfortable with a figure of about $30,000. Justice Pack described Mr Stewart's crime as a “systematic betrayal of individuals and charities” citing the last 18 months of Kidscan's existence as a period in which money was taken for greed and dishonesty, rather than necessity. Mr Stewart's lawyers are considering an appeal.