Treasurer who pocketed £75k of church funds avoids jail term
A church treasurer who stole more than £75,000 from his congregation has been largely forgiven for his “disgraceful” behaviour, a court heard yesterday.
Terrence Connor, who occupied the position at Seaforde Presbyterian Church in Co Down for 19 years, pocketed a total of £75,180 over a period spanning from January 2007 to April 2014.
Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that he sold his house to pay back the money he stole from funds raised by the congregation to improve the church’s facilities.
The 63-year-old, from Castle Heights in Dundrum, was handed a combination order consisting of 100 hours’ community service and two years’ probation after he admitted fraud by abuse of position.
Passing sentence, Judge Piers Grant told the defendant that he had been forgiven by most of the congregation.
Urging Connor to return to the church to resume worship, the judge said: “Your pew is available and they expect to see you back.”
The defendant’s offending came to light in April 2014, when he went to the home of the minister of Seaforde Presbyterian Church and confessed he had been taking money from the collection raised by the congregation.
This cash, the court heard, was being raised to improve facilities and had been earmarked for a new church hall.
Judge Grant said he accepted that Connor had spent the money on “general matters” rather than “on a lavish lifestyle”.
When the treasurer’s offending became a police matter, he sold his house, raised the “substantial amount” he stole and repaid the money in full to the church.
Judge Grant said he had listened to “very persuasive” arguments from members of the church who said that while they found Connors actions to be “disgraceful”, they did not want him sent to jail.
He added they acted in a “Christian way” to support him, and that a “vast majority” of the congregation had forgiven him.
Judge Grant told Connor that he should repay their kindness by going back to church and resuming worship.