Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of stealing £22,000 from Presbyterian church over six years

By Deborah McAleese

A man has been accused of stealing from a Northern Ireland church for over six years, pocketing more than £20,000 in cash.

Derek Carson appeared in court yesterday charged with theft and fraud following a police investigation into missing church funds.

The 55-year-old, from Orchard Way in Portglenone, was providing a financial support service to the Church when he allegedly stole the money through false accounting.

It is alleged that over a number of years he submitted incorrect accounts for the Church's approval, leading to thousands of pounds in cash going missing. After the alarm was raised, Carson found himself at the centre of a police fraud probe.

He appeared before Magherafelt Magistrate's Court yesterday charged with stealing £22,000 from Churchtown Presbyterian Church in Tamlaght, between January 2007 and June 2013. Carson, who arrived in court alone, faced a second charge of fraud over the same six-and-a-half year period.

The court heard that "while occupying a position" in which he was "expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of Churchtown Presbyterian Church" he "dishonestly abused that position".

It was alleged that he prepared and submitted incorrect accounts for Church approval "with the intention, by means of the abuse of that position" to make a gain for himself or another "or to cause loss" to the Church or to "expose the Church to a risk of a loss".

He has also been charged with converting criminal property, namely the £22,000 in cash, contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Standing in the dock throughout a brief preliminary hearing in the case, Carson only spoke to say he understood the charges against him. A lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service said she believed there was a case to answer. Carson was released on his own bail of £500 to appear before Londonderry Crown Court next month for arraignment.

His solicitor told the court there were almost 1,000 pages of evidence and exhibits to examine and that the services of a forensic accountant would have to be enlisted. Given the complexities of the case the district judge agreed to grant Carson legal aid.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland was unable to comment on the case. Churchtown Presbyterian Church, also known as Tamlaght Scots Presbyterian Church, is part of the Ballymena Presbytery.

Belfast Telegraph

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