Belfast Telegraph

Anonymity for £2m fraud accused

By Paul Higgins

A Co Tyrone woman has been accused of swindling more than £2m from the company she worked for over an eight-year period.

Standing in the dock of Dungannon Magistrates Court in a black knee-length dress, the 41-year-old - who cannot be identified on foot of an interim order in case she takes her own life - was charged with four offences against the firm.

She is accused of committing fraud by abusing the position she held in that she "fraudulently conducted transactions to the value of £2.3m... with intent to make a gain for herself or another".

The woman is also charged with concealing criminal property, and two counts of possessing and making fake Ulster Bank statements, intending them to be used to commit "or assist in the commission of fraud". The charges are alleged to have occurred between January 1, 2008 and February 28 this year.

Although the court did not hear what position she held in the company or how the alleged fraud came to light, Detective Constable McKee said he believed he could connect her to the offences.

Defence barrister Ian Turkington initially claimed he had spoken to the investigating officer and that police did not object to the defendant gaining anonymity, however a prosecuting lawyer said that was not the case.

The PPS lawyer also told the court she had received no notification of the impending defence application for a reporting restriction and had only received defence papers supporting the application that morning.

District Judge John Meehan also said the court had not been put on notice, which "is not adequate", and quoted guidance from the Lord Chief Justice that "interested parties" such as the police, prosecution and indeed the Press should be given prior notification of any such applications because "the parties concerned each have ownership in open justice."

Mr Turkington argued that the defendant's right to life, as enshrined under article two of the European Human Rights Convention, "counterbalances any principal of open justice", but Judge Meehan disagreed, saying the issue would need further argument and submissions from all sides.

Imposing an interim anonymity order until the issue of whether the right to life "has been engaged" is fully argued in court, Judge Meehan said he was making such an order "because it hardens the line" and maintains everyone's position.

Granting legal aid and certifying for counsel on the issue of anonymity, Judge Meehan released the defendant on bail and ordered her to come back to court on August 5.

Belfast Telegraph


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