THOUSANDS of pounds in donations to a Clacton charity were siphoned off to pay for a couple's household bills and fuel a woman's gambling addiction instead of helping disabled children, a court has heard.

James Donovan, 48, of Westfield Road, Blackpool, has denied three counts of defrauding Kidz Come First.

A trial, which opened on Tuesday, heard money given to the charity was transferred to Ruksana Khan, who was Donovan's partner, over a four-year period from 2011 to 2015.

In 2021, Khan admitted three counts of defrauding the charity.

The prosecution opened the case against Donovan, arguing that although Khan was the driving force behind the enterprise, Donovan "played a crucial role in enabling [the fraud] to happen".

Lucy Sweetland, prosecuting, argued it was impossible for Donovan to be unaware of Khan's fraudulent activity and the thousands of pounds entering his account directly from the charity.

The court heard how Donovan was made a trustee of the charity when it was set up in 2011, and received payments directly to his bank account from volunteers who collected money at events.

Donovan was also said to be the individual who opened the account and remained the sole signatory which, the prosecution alleges, allowed Khan unfettered access to the account so she could squander thousands of pounds to fuel her gambling addiction.

The fraud was eventually uncovered by the Charities Commission, which raised concerns about how the charity was being advertised.

When the commission obtained Kidz Come First's bank statements, they uncovered 378 transfers totalling £53,000 made from the charity to Khan's account.

The prosecution argued that Khan's and Donovan's finances were linked, with Donovan transferring £39,000 to Khan in a four-year period in numerous transactions.

Miss Sweetland continued: "Donovan abused his position in the way he set up the bank account to avoid proper controls, giving Khan unfettered access to it, and deliberately turned a blind eye when he must have known she was dipping into the fund.

"When he allowed his household bills to be paid from the charity account, he was also abusing his position."

The trial continues.