Belfast Telegraph

£150k fraudster has sentence cut after court hears of terminal illness

By Alan Erwin

A financial adviser who targeted an elderly victim in a "wicked" £150,000 investment scam is to have his jail term cut because he is now dying.

The Court of Appeal reduced 71-year-old Dennis Light's sentence from two and a half years to 12 months after being told of his terminal illness.

Light, formerly of Ballybarnes Road in Newtownards, Co Down, will serve half that period behind bars before an anticipated release at the end of this year.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan stressed he should not be let out immediately because the offences were so serious and premeditated.

"This was a vulnerable victim in his late seventies, approaching the end of his life, who was preyed upon by this man," he said.

"One shudders to think what the effect would have been on the victim if he had discovered that he had been abused in this particular way."

Light had acted as financial adviser to the man before he died in 2014.

At first he conned him into writing a £50,000 cheque in 2008, initially intended to be put into spread betting before those plans changed.

A further £100,000 was then handed over for investment in traditional stocks and shares.

Light used fake spreadsheets to give his victim the impression that the value of venture had increased to more than £380,000.

But in fact he had kept the money for himself.

An investigation launched amid concerns by the victim's son confirmed no brokerage houses ever handled any investments.

The court heard Light denied the scam when first questioned, claiming the £100,000 cheque was to cover money owed to him for a series of investments made under a "gentleman's agreement" with the victim.

Eventually, however, he pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and nine counts of false accounting.

Following sentencing on June 30 this year, defence lawyers urged appeal judges to reduce the term as an act of mercy.

Mark Mulholland QC told the court a doctor has confirmed his client is terminally ill, with an estimated life expectancy somewhere between five and 15 months.

As Light wiped away tears on the prison video-link, his barrister contended: "We are looking at a man who may not reach 72."

Ruling on the appeal, Sir Declan said: "Against the background of disgraceful, wicked offending we need to take account of the overall circumstances, including the medical condition this man now finds himself in.

"We accept there would be a basis for interference with the sentence of two and a half years, having regard to the clear medical evidence this man is coming to the end of his life himself."

But the judge added: "We do not consider this is a case where we should simply let him out.

"We will, however, reduce the sentence by imposing a determinate custodial sentence of 12 months - six months in custody and six months in licence."

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