Festival fraud aristocrat 'still paying £355k back' after stint in jail

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The founder of music festival Standon Calling today told how he was still paying back £355,000 to his parents for bailing him out over a swindle that saw him sentenced to 30 months in jail.

Alexander Trenchard, 38, the eldest son of Viscount Trenchard and a former page boy to the Queen, spent 10 years developing the event at the family seat, which began as a barbecue for about 100 friends.  

But the costs for the annual summer festival in Hertfordshire spiralled and he started paying off debts he had racked up with a corporate credit card provided by his then employer Tesco.

In 2011, the Eton-educated heir to the family title was jailed at Aylesbury crown court after admitting theft and fraud by false representation. 

Lord and Lady Trenchard paid back the £355,000.

Today, Trenchard, who served 11 months in jail and lives in north London, said the festival was in “good shape” — but he had not fully paid back his parents. “It is still a work in progress, but we are getting there. I made a huge mistake but they have been fantastically supportive,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a team around me who stayed with the festival when that happened and ran it while I was inside.

“I remember receiving postcards from the festival when I was in prison.”  

He said the event had become “too big” at the time of his crimes. “I was young, had just finished uni. The first stage we built blew over — we did not know what we were doing. Actually for the festival it (prison) happened at the right time because it meant it had become too big to do that and have a normal job.”

By 2007, the Oxford graduate was using his £70,000-a-year Tesco salary to pay off debts linked to the festival. He then began using the credit card supplied for his role as corporate affairs manager to obtain cash to pay bills. The spending was uncovered by a 2010 audit, after which Trenchard was interviewed by police and made a full admission. 

This year’s festival, from July 27-30, has Orbital, Grace Jones, and Clean Bandit as headliners. Horrible Histories headline the family programme after Trenchard was petitioned by his children.  He said his parents’ “incredible” sense of hospitality was a driving force behind the event’s longevity. Their home, Standon Lordship, was once owned by Richard, Duke of York, and then his son, Edward IV.

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