Belfast Telegraph

Vulnerable two-time fraudster gets break from judge

BY MICHAEL DONNELLY

A man caught for the second time defrauding thousands of pounds from his employers has been allowed to walk free after his two-year jail term was suspended for three years.

Belfast Deputy Recorder Judge Corinne Philpott QC told the 25-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, that she was treating his case as "wholly exceptional" given his psychological and psychiatric background.

However, the judge warned the former north Belfast man that he "must realise you cannot commit crime to buy friends".

She also advised he continue to seek outside help and counselling for the many problems he faces.

The judge said that in her view, to impose an immediate custodial sentence would have a disproportional effect on him.

Prosecution lawyer Stephen McCourt said that the man admitted two charges of fraud by abuse of position between January and March last year, in which he diverted over £30,000 from his employer's bank to his own account. Mr McCourt also revealed that this was not the first time the man has admitted such offending.

In 2010, he admitted taking over £15,000 in a fraud involving a former employer.

It was the view of the police that he was trying to buy the affections of a number of people, and "didn't care about the consequences for himself".

Defence lawyer Jonpaul Shields said it was clear from the outset that his client's criminality was going to be discovered.

He also revealed psychiatric reports painted a tragic tale in which throughout his life, the young man had been bullied, victimised and effectively left isolated.

Mr Shields also revealed that his client had not used the money in a calculated way, believing the only way to impress people was to buy their friendship – and that's where the money went.

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