Cathedral fraudster attempts to appeal prison sentence

Rene Mugenzi claimed his life would be under threat if it was revealed that he lived in Norwich, yet

Rene Mugenzi claimed his life would be under threat if it was revealed that he lived in Norwich, yet he posted public photos on Facebook of his life in Norwich. Photo: Facebook/Rene Mugenzi - Credit: Archant

The former treasurer of Norwich’s Catholic Cathedral is trying to reduce his two-year prison sentence, claiming the judge did not take into account his mental health.

Rene Mugenzi was jailed for 27 months at Norwich Crown Court in October last year, after admitting to taking more than £220,000 from St John the Baptist Cathedral while volunteering as its treasurer.

The Cathedral of St John the Baptist where Mugenzi was a volunteer treasurer. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Cathedral of St John the Baptist where Mugenzi was a volunteer treasurer. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Much of the cash was designated for Catholic charities and had been donated by worshippers at the end of services.

But Mugenzi, 44, pocketed the money to fund his gambling addiction, the court heard.

His legal team said at the time that Mugenzi’s life was under threat from the government of his native Rwanda and at the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday they cited this in an attempt to be given permission to appeal his sentence.

His barrister, Sam Bloom-Cooper said: "He is someone who, for many years, courageously stood up and called out human rights abuses by what many have called a ruthless regime. 

"In 2011 he was given a warning by the Met Police to say that the Rwandan government posed an imminent threat to his life, which followed him speaking on a BBC radio phone-in.

Rene Mugenzi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Quintessential82

Rene Mugenzi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Quintessential82 - Credit: Archant

"He was in regular contact with the Met Police, then with the anti-terror division of Norfolk Police.

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"There was a death sentence around his head and that has impacted significantly on his mental health, but that was not taken into consideration in his sentence."

Rene Mugenzi arrives at Norwich Crown Court fora hearing. Photo: Archant

Rene Mugenzi arrives at Norwich Crown Court fora hearing. Photo: Archant - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Mr Bloom-Cooper said since being arrested in 2018 Mugenzi had "used that time productively to seek help for his gambling addiction", but he said court delays caused him "great stress".

"During this time, he separated from his wife and that delay was not properly reflected in the judge's sentence," he added.

Mr Bloom-Cooper also argued that there has been "egregious" failings by the Norwich courts as the charge Mugenzi faced had not been written down by them. He said this breached Section 17A of the Magistrates Court Act.

"Norwich Crown Court have confirmed there is still no amended charge in existence still to this day," he said. 

"By not taking an indication of pleas meant the Magistrates' Court committal for sentence was invalid."

At the time of his conviction, Mugenzi's legal team tried to stop his name being published because of the supposed threat to his life but the ban was overturned by this newspaper.

The Court of Appeal will now decide whether Mugenzi will be given permission to appeal his sentence. 

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