THE spirit of goodwill reigned between Father Christmas and North-East police chiefs last night after a charity muddle got Santa into trouble.

Father Christmas, alias 51-year-old Frank Brown, had his furry collar felt by police as he collected cash for BBC's Children In Need.

Dressed in full red suit complete with white beard, Frank was frog-marched to the police station accused of obtaining money by deception.

The £150 he had collected from shoppers was seized.

He was later released although he was due to return to the police station for further questioning.

But Frank, of Dipton, County Durham, says it was all a genuine mistake, although he accepts he broke the collection rules.

Church-goer Frank has collected cash for Children In Need on and off for 20 years and says it was his eagerness that caused the bother. He was granted a licence from Durham City Council to collect for the charity and given a patch at Consett bus station.

But he was only supposed to collect on Friday, the official Children In Need day, between 9am and 5pm.

Frank said: "I wanted to collect as much money as possible and I had no intention of keeping it.

"It was my fault I suppose, but I wanted to be the person that raised the most.

"I've been worried sick over this. It was an honest mistake and I don't want people to think I am a thief when I am not."

Following the allegation, the council has withdrawn his licence which he means he be unable to join the thousands of fundraisers on the day.

However, the story had a happy ending last night when police chiefs said they would not be taking any further action.

And they have pledged to donate the seized cash to Children In Need.