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Former Cliftonville director McKillop avoids jail over charity fraud

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Stephen McKillop who pleaded guilty to fraud

Stephen McKillop who pleaded guilty to fraud

Stephen McKillop who pleaded guilty to fraud

A former director of Cliftonville Football Club has been sentenced on fraud offences.

Co Antrim man Stephen Christopher McKillop was handed a nine-month sentence, which was suspended for two years, after he admitted abusing his position as the treasurer of a community group in Ahoghill to carry out the fraud.

Further charges of falsifying documents whilst holding the position of director of Cliftonville FC were left on the court books and were not proceeded with.

Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard the amount involved in the fraud totalled £15,750 - which has since been paid back in full.

McKillop (49), from Largy Road in Ahoghill, pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by abuse of position from March 2013 to May 2015, and to one count of transferring criminal property in June 2015.

He appeared at a remote court hearing via videolink with his solicitor's office and was sentenced by Judge Donna McColgan QC.

He admitted abusing his position as treasurer of Ahoghill Community Years Project to make unauthorised payments to both himself, and to Cliftonville FC.

Setting out the background to McKillop's offending, Judge McColgan said that between 2013 and 2015, the father-of-two was the treasurer of the community group, and was also a director of Cliftonville FC.

At that time, a playgroup in Ahoghill that had been located within a primary school was informed it had to vacate the premises.

A charity called The Friends of St Paul's was then set up to oversee the refurbishment of a local church hall to house the playgroup.

Judge McColgan said that in December 2016, the PSNI received a report from the Group Fraud Investigation Services "alleging the misappropriation of monies" from a playgroup in Ahoghill and that two of the beneficiaries were McKillop and Cliftonville Football Club.

Judge McColgan said: "Essentially, the defendant was moving funds around between the various organisations to pay off various debts."

The judge said she had taken into account various points which had been made by the defence, including "the fact the defendant was a volunteer rather than an employee", that there was "no real personal gain" to McKillop, and that he had a clear criminal record.

She said that after reading all the documents, reports and character references, it was "clear" McKillop had "taken on far too much in his life" at a time when, due to personal circumstances, he "ought not to have been volunteering".

Addressing McKillop, Judge McColgan handed him a suspended sentence and warned that any further re-offending would see him back in court.

When the judge asked him "is that clear?", he replied: "Yes, Your Honour."

According to Companies House, McKillop was appointed a Cliftonville director in November 2014 and resigned in September 2017.

Belfast Telegraph