Belfast Telegraph

Former director of NI Events Company admits misconduct

Janice McAleese
Janice McAleese
Damien Fleming

By John Cassidy

A former director of the Northern Ireland Events Company will be sentenced next month after pleading 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 its collapse.

The case was listed for mention only at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, but defence counsel for both defendants asked for them to be rearraigned.

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 misconduct in public office charge relates to dates between October 1, 2004 and January 1, 2006.

It states 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, McAleese replied: "Guilty."

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 the Northern Ireland Events Company 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.

This is becase it would be "impossible for the Probation Service to assimilate the large volume of documents prepared by the prosecution".

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

Ms McDermott said 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.

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."

McAleese ran the NI Events Company, which used public money to promote events such as concerts.

The company was behind events such as Elton John's 1998 concert at Stormont.

The NIEC collapsed in 2007, leaving the taxpayer to settle its debts of £1.6m.

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

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

The NI Audit Office had previously described her conduct "as the worst it had seen from a senior public official".

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