A "MEAN spirited" rogue who stole from charity boxes to fund his nomadic lifestyle has had his sentence slashed on appeal.

Derrick Matthews, 55, targeted charity boxes in pubs, shops, and public places over a far-flung area of Cumbria and the Lake District, pilfering cash from causes such as Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue.

His offences were committed between 2010 and 2013, when Matthews was living a "disorganised and itinerant" lifestyle.

Matthews tended to strike while shop staff were busy and at one point used a knife to cut through the string of a charity box.

But the wily itinerant was finally snared when he was spotted trying to sneak off from the Queens Hotel, in Ambleside, with a collection box under his coat, and quickly detained.


Matthews, of no known address, received a five-year jail term at Carlisle Crown Court in December last year after admitting assorted counts of theft or attempted theft.

His case reached the Appeal Court today as he challenged his total sentence, which his legal team claimed was far too harsh.

Mr Justice Simon, sitting with Judge Sir Richard Henriques, said Matthews was guilty of "mean-spirited and heartless" crimes.

"They struck at the hearts of the good people of this country who are prepared to give their hard-earned money to charity.

"They were utterly callous offences, committed over a number of years and a long sentence was called for," he added.

But he went on to reduce Matthews' sentence from five years to 40 months, saying that the sentencing judge had adopted "too high a starting point".