An award-winning musical director who defrauded parents, a charity and an education board out of tens of thousands of pounds has walked free from court.
Antrim Crown Court Judge Corine Philpott told 56-year-old Eric William Boyd that jailing him would be "too severe" and instead suspended his three-year prison term.
Boyd, from Springwell Crescent, Macosquin, Coleraine, had admitted taking the funds over a two-year period up to 2005 while working as musical director for the North Eastern Education and Library Board and for the charity the Association of Friends of the North East Schools Symphony Orchestra.
Boyd, who was finally suspended from his posts in 2007 after concerns were raised by the charity, operated from two bank accounts which he used to syphon off monies into his own account.
The court heard that Boyd had since paid back £50,000.
Charity boss David Foster, who blew the whistle on Boyd, was also charitable in his condemnation of the one-time director, who had been given an honorary degree by the University of Ulster.
"I feel sorry for Eric Boyd for being so silly, because he has ruined himself," said Mr Foster.
However, Mr Foster was also glad that he and his staff had been vindicated in taking the original case against Boyd.
"When you are a whistleblower, you are concerned, worried have we got it right, but now I, my officers and the charity, all have clearly been vindicated," said Mr Foster.
Earlier he had listened as Judge Philpott told Boyd that his one-time substantial reputation in the music world had been destroyed by his own actions, which would also impact on his wife and two sons.
The judge said that Boyd had been honoured for his work and while it might have been said he did a lot of good work in the past, "by his actions he has undone that good".
However, Judge Philpott said by his guilty pleas Boyd had saved the court considerable time and resources, and by voluntarily paying back what he had taken had also progressed the compensation process whereby the library board and charity will be reimbursed more quickly.
At an earlier hearing, prosecuting QC Richard Weir had said that although Boyd had treated the funds as his own, it was accepted that he did use some of the monies for the purpose for which they were intended, the musical education of youngsters.
Speaking yesterday, defence lawyer Gavin Duffy said that Boyd had "suffered a considerable fall from grace" and while references from politicians, colleagues and neighbours spoke of his incredible past industriousness, he had himself "demolished his previous good character".
Story so far
Boyd admitted taking the money over a two-year period up to 2005. He had taken thousands while working for the North Eastern Education and Library Board and a charity. The former head of music of the North Eastern Education and Library Board had been charged with the theft of £50,000. He stole sums ranging from £1,000 to £22,000.