Woman who stole £16k from city community group to feed drug habit jailed
A Belfast woman who admitted defrauding more than £16,000 from a community organisation of which murdered ex-IRA leader Gerard 'Jock' Davison was once a director has been jailed for nine months.
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told former finance officer Niamh Marie Rose Bradley (39) that he had "concluded a custodial sentence is inevitable", and had she contested the case she would have been given 16 months.
Bradley admitted defrauding the Donegall Pass-based Cromac Regeneration Initiative (CRI) group over a two-year period up to November last year.
Earlier Judge Miller had remarked that "acts of theft come in many forms, but a breach of trust is the worst kind", adding later: "The position quite simply is that effectively £16,500 was misappropriated, or lost as a result of the defendant's actions."
Bradley, originally with an address in Hughenden Avenue, but who had since moved to Old Westland Road in the north of the city, admitted taking CRI monies to fund her drug addiction, and to treat family and friends.
Prosecution barrister Robin Steer said that Bradley had initially "broken down in tears" after claiming she could not find the community bank books when they were needed for an audit last November.
Eventually she returned in early December and confessed to her manager "that she had doctored" bank statements to cover her taking cheques.
Mr Steer said Bradley said she had "a drug addiction", at which stage her manager told her she had "no choice but to sack her and inform the police".
In all there were 28 separated transactions, amounting to £15,447.18.
Solicitor advocate Stephen Keown said Bradley, who admitted her guilt to police, had a history of mental health difficulities from a young age and had used the money, about £200 to £300 a week, to buy cannabis.
Mr Keown said reports also indicated this gave Bradley feelings of wellbeing and worth. However, he added while Bradley "apologised" and her admissions indicated her remorse, regret and shame, she had "no means of getting her hands on this type of money" to make restitution. The CRI community group, which give Bradley a chance in employing her despite a previous criminal record, was set up as a limited company in 2010 following the amalgamation of three communities in inner south Belfast.
Former IRA Belfast commander Davison was one of eight directors in the limited company.