Belfast Telegraph

Former DUP councillor guilty of defrauding Assembly in £9k heating oil swindle

By George Jackson

A brother-in-law of former Stormont Speaker William Hay has admitted 23 charges of fraud by invoicing the Assembly for central heating oil worth £9,000 which was delivered to his home.

William Irwin (55), from Duncastle Road, Newbuildings, committed the offences between March 2009 and February 2014 when he was the manager of the DUP constituency office at Ebrington Terrace in the Waterside area of Londonderry.

Irwin, a former DUP member of Derry City Council from 1993 to 1997 before he was appointed manager of the constituency office, was once a close political confidante of Mr Hay, now Lord Hay of Ballyore.

It is understood the offences were uncovered when Lord Hay spotted irregularities in his office accounts.

In September 2014 Lord Hay announced that he was calling in police to investigate an apparent fraud in his constituency office.

At the time he said that he had gone public "in the interests of transparency and given my leadership role as Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly".

Irwin pleaded guilty to 23 charges of fraud by false representation by making false claims to the Assembly for payment for heating oil expenditure for the DUP constituency office at Ebrington Terrace in breach of and contrary to the 2006 Fraud Act.

He committed the offences with intent to make a gain for himself or another, or to expose another to the risk of loss.

At Irwin's first appearance hearing his barrister Mark Reel told District Judge Barney McElholm that following consultations he had received instructions from the defendant to plead guilty to all of the charges.

A Public Prosecution Service solicitor told the court that Irwin had "an old record, but nothing of this nature".

Mr McElholm ordered a pre-sentence report for April 1 and said he would sentence Irwin on that date.

He told Irwin that his Duncastle Road address would be forwarded to the Probation Service.

"If for any reason you move from that address you must let the Probation Service know in advance so they can keep in touch with you in preparing the pre-sentence report," the judge told Irwin.

"Please attend all meetings and appointments they arrange with you and co-operate with them so we will have a report for April 1."

When asked by Mr McElholm for the value of the central heating oil involved in the fraud, the PPS solicitor said the case was "that the defendant was having home heating oil delivered to his home address and invoicing it through the DUP constituency office, causing it to be paid for out of the public purse through the Northern Ireland Assembly".

The court was told that the value of the fraud was just under £9,000.

Irwin committed the offences in May 2009; January, February, May, September and November 2010; January, February, April, June and November 2011; February, March, June, August, September and November 2012; January, February, March, May and September 2013, and in January and February of 2014.

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