The founder of a Rickmansworth animal charity stole nearly £20,000 to pay off his son’s drug debts.

Christopher Wicks, 68, set up CW Wildlife 10 years ago to care for injured and sick wildlife.

It was in August 2021 when Wicks began taking the money, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor John Burke said the former van driver and London Zoo volunteer was challenged by the treasurer and another trustee in 2022 and admitted transferring the cash.

“He said it was his intention to pay it back. It was to pay off drug debts for his son,” said Mr Burke.

In all, £19,410 was taken. The charity, which was based at Stockers Farm and had six trustees, 70 volunteers and a £60,000 budget, is now closed.

Wicks appeared at St Albans Crown Court, having pleaded guilty before the magistrates’ court to fraud by abuse of position. He was not represented by a lawyer.

Asked by Judge Francis Sheridan if he intended to repay the money, he replied: “I would like to try.”

He said he was receiving state pension of £800 a month and had no savings. He has a heart condition and is unsuitable for unpaid work.

Judge Sheridan told him: “You weren’t doing your son any favours.”

The judge went on: “You were defrauding the charity you started, to pay for your son’s illegal drugs.

“A more stupid, idiotic thing to do is hard to imagine. You have thrown away your fine reputation. It is a tragedy.”

The judge said he must pay £4,600 compensation to the charity at a rate of £100 a month. He must also abide by a 10.30pm to 5am curfew for the next eight weeks.