Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Northern Ireland Events Company director Janice McAleese pleads guilty to misconduct

Both defendants were freed on bail (stock photo)
Both defendants were freed on bail (stock photo)

By John Cassidy

A former director of the Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC) has pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office.

Janice McAleese and co-accused Damien Fleming had been due to go on trial next year on charges relating to the collapse of NIEC.

The case was listed for mention only at Belfast Crown Court on Friday, but counsel for both defendants asked for them to be re-arraigned.

McAleese (55), of Elvanfort Biggar in Lanarkshire, Scotland, was allowed by Judge Kevin Finnegan QC to stand outside of the dock by her solicitor because of "hearing difficulties'' as an amended charge was put to her.

The charge stated that on dates between October 1, 2004 and January 1, 2006, "being a public officer acting as Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Ireland Events Company, you wilfully neglected to perform your duty and/or wilfully misconducted yourself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the thrust of the public''.

The charge added that she arranged for "payments of approximately £330,000 to be made to Damien Fleming/Schism Ltd which were in excess of payments approved by the NIEC Board and were paid without the authority or knowledge of the Board and received payments of £49,800 from Damien Fleming/Schism Ltd''.

When the amended charge was put to her by the clerk of the court, McAleese replied: "Guilty.''

Damien Fleming (55), of Station Road in Maghera, Co Londonderry, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of aiding and abetting McAleese in misconduct in public office.

Prosecution barrister Michael Chambers said that a separate charge faced by both defendants of conspiracy to defraud NIEC was "being left on the books in the usual terms''.

Defence counsel Eilis McDermott QC told Judge Finnegan that she was not asking for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on McAleese as it would be "impossible for Probation Service to assimilate the large volume of documents prepared by the prosecution''.

She said that McAleese was suffering from a number of health issues and was due to see a psychiatrist next month.

Ms McDermott said that there had been "difficulties'' in accessing McAleese's medical notes and records from the NHS as she was currently living in Scotland.

She added that her instructing solicitor would be making contact with a cardiologist in an effort to secure those records.

Fleming's counsel Martin O'Rourke QC agreed that it was not necessary for the judge to order a pre-sentence report on his client ahead of sentencing.

Judge Finnegan adjourned sentencing the defendants until next month to await medical reports.

The judge released them on continuing bail, telling the defendants: "You are free to go. Keep in touch with your solicitors.''

In 2016, McAleese was banned from being a company director for 14 years following the collapse of the NIEC quango.

She had run the company from 2003 to 2007, resigning shortly before serious financial problems came to light.

The NI Audit Office had previously decribed McAleese's conduct "as the worst it had seen from a senior public official'' after she had covered up a £1.5 million loss at NIEC and fabricating documents provided to a government department and her board of directors.

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