Belfast Telegraph

Disgraced Boys' Brigade captain who stole £34,000 from the youth organisation avoids prison

Judge lambasts 'arrogant and spiteful' swindler (55)

By Ivan Little

A disgraced former Boys' Brigade captain who admitted swindling more than £34,000 from the organisation he led for 19 years walked free from court yesterday after being handed a community service order.

David Morrow stood with his head bowed in Downpatrick Courthouse as Judge Piers Grant attacked his "arrogance" over how he "spitefully" betrayed the trust of the congregation of Killinchy Presbyterian Church in Co Down.

The judge told Morrow, who is 55 and from Ballydorn Road, Killinchy, that he had lost his reputation in the community and added: "You should be utterly ashamed. You inflicted enormous damage on the community and on the church."

Judge Grant said that what Morrow did caused "enormous division and tension" and he added that it was a matter of concern that the accused hadn't shown any insight into, or real concern for, what he had done.

Morrow, a former bank official, had earlier pleaded guilty to a series of charges including false accounting, fraud by abuse of position, fraud by false representation and transferring criminal property.

The offences were committed between July 2009 and May 2011.

The court was told that Morrow had paid back over £34,000, which was fractionally more than what was stolen.

Prosecution lawyer David McClean said that Morrow was stood down as captain of 1st Killinchy BB attached to the local Presbyterian church in November 2010 after "spiritual differences".

Mr McClean said Morrow was asked to return all the BB's books, accounts and records, but it emerged that he destroyed some of the material "due to anger".

The Crown said two boxes of material were destroyed to cover up what Morrow had done.

Morrow, the court was told, had control of the BB's money and because he was trusted and a bank official, no one had previously questioned his accounts.

Mr McClean said that Morrow eventually handed over £12.09, claiming that was the remaining balance in the BB account, but church officials were "surprised" because there were around 100 boys in the company and they had paid a subscription of £25 each.

The Presbyterian Church then brought in an accountant and a solicitor before calling in the police.

Mr McClean said the PSNI carried out a lengthy and complex investigation and 25 different bank accounts were found, a number of them personal ones set up by Morrow.

It was also stated that Morrow had received gift aid money of over £4,000 after falsely representing himself as still captain of the BB company.

Mr McClean revealed that Morrow had said he used the vast majority of the money to fund other church groups in the Killinchy area.

He said the defendant was interviewed 20 times by police and told them he believed that even though he wasn't captain of the BB, he still believed that he was the organisation's treasurer.

Defence barrister Conor Holmes stressed that Morrow had paid back £34,500 and that he had pleaded guilty, avoiding a trial that could have lasted up to three weeks with over 4,000 pages of disclosure evidence.

Mr Holmes said that Morrow had for 19 years as Boys' Brigade captain made a massive impact on the organisation and on Killinchy.

And he said that after the fall-out he had tried to use most of the money at the centre of the charges to provide a massive amount of facilities for the youth of the area.

Morrow was said to have put some of the other money into his own accounts from which he claimed he had paid BB bills.

Mr Holmes said his client had not benefited personally and he added that a number of references had been handed into the court in praise of the accused's contribution to the community, working seven to eight hours a day to help others, not himself.

But he said the defendant was under no illusion that he had destroyed his reputation and his "previous good character".

Judge Grant said he had read a victim impact statement on behalf of the Down Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland outlining the damage done to the church in Killinchy.

He said Morrow had shown an arrogance and an attitude that "he could do as he liked".

But Judge Grant told Morrow that he wasn't going to impose a custodial sentence on him and instead ordered him to do 200 hours of community service, which he said was at the top scale of the sentencing that he could impose.

The retired clerk of session of the Killinchy church, Joe Tate, said in a statement: "We are pleased that this long and drawn-out saga has come to end and that Mr Morrow has rightly admitted his wrongdoing.

"We may now hope that the healing process can begin and that Killinchy Presbyterian Church and the wider community, in a spirit of forgiveness, can move forward from here."

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