Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland man who posed as barrister to defraud woman facing jail term

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Co Down man who admitted posing as a barrister to defraud a vulnerable woman has been remanded in custody.

Christopher McDonnell was warned by a Crown Court judge that he faces a custodial sentence after he pleaded guilty to eight offences committed last March.

He also denied a fraud charged linked to an "underhand payment to a judge".

The 34-year-old, from Limewood in Banbridge, appeared at Belfast Crown Court, where he pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation, two counts of theft and two forgery charges.

The charges McDonnell admitted included dishonestly claiming to be a qualified barrister to make a gain for himself or cause a loss to a woman; stealing money from the same woman, and claiming a document purporting to be a bank transfer represented money that she owed him for legal fees.

He also admitted forging a letter addressed to the woman from a recognised law firm as well as faking a court document which notified a change of solicitor. While he entered guilty pleas to eight of the charges he faces, McDonnell denied a further two counts of fraud.

He denied telling the woman he needed £590 "to use as an underhand payment to a judge", and denied giving her payment instructions which he claimed were to "discharge legal fees".

The court heard that while seven of the charges relate to one woman, McDonnell also admitted posing as a barrister with the intention of gaining for himself or causing a loss to a second woman. A Crown barrister revealed the amount of money involved was around £15,000, and said the two women were "reasonably vulnerable".

Issues were then raised about the defendant's bail conditions after it was claimed he travelled to England for job training.

After no evidence of such travelling and training was presented to the court, Judge Smyth remanded McDonnell in custody until sentencing on November 8.

She said: "Given the serious nature of these offences, I find it difficult to see how a non-custodial sentence can be imposed."

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