A MAN who duped the public out of more than £500 with a fake army uniform and Help for Heroes bucket has been jailed.

Liam O’Brien, 32, of no fixed abode, had been seen wearing the uniform of a Royal Marines sergeant on more than one occasion at railway stations, collecting for the military charity.

O’Brien used the uniform, forged letters and false military ID to con train conductors into giving him free travel as well as pocketing the charitable donations.

The former Biddestone resident, who was ultimately apprehended at Bath Spa station for his crimes, pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud, handling stolen goods and four charges of possessing an article for use in fraud at an earlier hearing.

The offending began in April of last year, just five months after he was released from prison for similar offences.

Sentencing him to three-and-a-half years in prison at Swindon Crown Court, Judge Peter Blair QC said: “I have to sentence you for 12 charges that you appear in front of me for today.

“You know we will be invoking a prison sentence because this has been a long period of offending and very shortly after your release from your previous sentence for very similar matters you offended again.

“It’s worthy of mention that you have appeared countless times in crown courts and received long custodial sentences for offences of fraud, making false representations, theft and dishonest use of articles for fraud.

“Most recently, you were at this court in March 2013, when you were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and released on December 19, 2013.

“And yet within days you were applying for authorisation to collect for the charity Help for Heroes.

“In October of last year, you were collecting whilst wearing a Royal Marines’ sergeant’s uniform, to which you had no entitlement.

“The public assumed, as they gave you their money for that notable, well-known, important charity, that’s where their money was going.

“Within a month you are seen on November 4, on the train to Bath, with Help for Heroes buckets in that uniform again, with over £500 of money not going to the charity.

“The public standing of a charity and the trust of the public in charities is a very high and important standard that needs to be maintained.

“By behaving in the fashion you have, you have risked good will damage to that charity and I regard that as extremely heinous and bear in mind your previous conviction in the fact you obtained this wherewithal.

“These sentences will get longer and longer, if you keep offending. I hope in the time you spend in prison, you reflect and find better things to do with your time when released.”

O’Brien admitted telling people he was a serving member of HM forces and entitled to collect for Help for Heroes in October and November last year.

Earlier, in April and May, he twice made representations to people he was in the military with a view to gain by deception.

During the first week in April he handled stolen documents belonging to the Guyers House Hotel in Corsham containing personal details of manager Neil Glasspool.

He also had a bogus military ID in the names Sgt Liam O'Brien, Sgt Davis and Sgt Malcolm Porter.

Supt Gill Murray, of British Transport Police, said: “This was a great display of team work, drive and determination from all concerned, with officers going to great lengths to ensure O’Brien was brought to justice.”

Jo Brookes, income protection officer at Help for Heroes, said: “O’Brien pretended to be a serving soldier and deceived the public into thinking they were making donations which would help our wounded.

“Instead he was cashing in on their goodwill and using the money for his own personal gain. Our anti-fraud measures helped police catch him quickly and we're delighted he's behind bars.”

In mitigation for O’Brien, Tony Bignall said: “My client doesn’t ask for pity or mercy. He knows what he’s done wrong and doesn’t pretend otherwise.

“He doesn’t say he wants any help solving his problem. He feels neither the probation service nor anyone else has the ability to help him.

“He must do this himself.”