|Mr Lawton's hidden overstock of poppy merchandise, after discovery by New Mills town councillors|
Here is how the house newspaper of the Conservative Party, the Daily Telegraph, is reporting the scandal in the High Peak Conservative Association, president Edwina Currie:
"Edwina Currie tried to help poppy thief who stole money for war heroes
"A former local Conservative chairman who stole more than £3,000 from the Royal British Legion under the guise of selling poppies was helped in court by Edwina Currie.
"The former MP and her husband John Jones pleaded with magistrates to have mercy on their friend Jeff Lawton, 41, after he was convicted of stealing money meant for war heroes and their families.
"Lawton stole £3,135 after collecting money for the Poppy Appeal.
"Ms Currie and her husband sent letters to Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court to help his mitigation.
"Her husband told the Mirror: 'We are both horrified because we actually don’t think he is guilty. We have known Jeff for quite a few years and we are quite fond of him. He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body.
'He’s the most disorganised person you could wish to meet. He’s very careless but a lovely guy. Both Edwina and I sent letters to the court as some mitigation. He’s not a thief in my opinion but who am I to argue with a judge? Having been convicted, he was very lucky not to be given a prison sentence. He’s in a real state now and his parents are really distraught.'
"Lawton, who has now resigned as chairman of the High Peak Conservative Association in Buxton, Derbyshire, over the scandal, had raised £400 for the British Legion but claimed he had only collected £200.
"Another receipt revealed he had raised £7,000 but only submitted £4,000.
"He was found guilty of theft by magistrates and given a community order.
"Lawton was arrested last October after the British Legion noticed discrepancies in its accounts.
"He initially blamed a cashier for the error when he deposited the money at a bank.
"A spokesperson for the Royal British Legion said: “This loss will deprive those in the service and ex-service community and their families of much needed assistance and support.”
"Former New Mills councillor Mark Gadd added: “He’s gone from being a pillar of the community to a disgrace. No one knows what he has spent the money on.”
"He caused controversy two years ago when New Mills Town Council complained he had left 23,750 poppies and hundreds of other Remembrance Day items, wreaths, collecting boxes and tins, totalling nearly 25,000 items, in council offices."
Here is the link to the Daily Telegraph article on the newspaper's website: