THE man who nominated this year's overall winner in the Gazette's Local Heroes awards has been convicted of stealing money from two charities.
Edwin Linton, of Honeycroft Hill, Uxbridge, admitted taking a total of £30 from two collection boxes for Help for Heroes and the Poppy Appeal on December 6 last year.
Weeks earlier, Linton had nominated Hero of Hillingdon Hamish McGregor for the Fabulous Fundraiser award for raising £25,000 by setting up a temporary shop in Uxbridge - for Help for Heroes.
But Uxbridge Magistrates' Court heard last Thursday that Linton was caught by Mr McGregor stealing from the two armed forces' charities.
Despite turning in his friend to police, Mr McGregor has vowed to stand by and support the 66-year-old.
Debra Williamson, Linton's solicitor, said her unemployed client was suffering financial difficulties and struggling to pay a £300 electricity bill.
Ms Williamson said: "Mr Linton lived on the streets for 25 years until seven years ago, when he was given housing accommodation, but he has found it very difficult to adjust to the lifestyle change.
"A health and safety team were called after reports of a terrible smell coming from his home, and found that he had been hoarding food.
"He was also an alcoholic and was drinking anything, including methylated spirits, in desperation - but he has been sober for seven years now.
"He has managed to cope as well as he can but has had some assistance from mental health services in Hillingdon."
Ms Williamson asked magistrates to be lenient on Linton. "He impulsively decided to take the money but has paid the majority of it back and his last previous conviction was 20 years ago," she said.
Giving Linton a 12-month conditional discharge, chairman of the bench Peter Yiacumi said: "This is a very serious offence but in these circumstances it is aggravated by the fact the money was stolen from charities."
No costs were awarded because of Linton's financial circumstances.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Mr McGregor said: "Edwin has got himself into a bit of trouble but he has come back to church and we are working together to get him back on his feet again."