Belfast Telegraph

Seaforde church fraud accused 'sells his house to repay money'

By Paul Higgins

A man accused of defrauding a church for almost 20 years has sold his house to repay the money, a court has been told.

The revelation came at Downpatrick Magistrates Court where 63-year-old Terrence Connor was charged with false accounting and abusing the position he held with Seaforde Presbyterian Church to commit fraud.

The false accounting offence alleged that Connor, from Castle Heights in Dundrum, "failed to record the correct sum of money which should have been lodged in the Seaforde Presbyterian Church bank account" on various dates between January 1, 1995 and April 6, 2014. The count of fraud by abuse of position discloses allegations that "whilst occupying a position in which you were expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of the congregation of Seaforde Presbyterian Church", Connor used congregation funds for his own purposes on a date between January 15, 2007 and April 9, 2014.

Appearing in court on foot of a Public Prosecution Service summons, Connor was permitted to stand outside the dock where he confirmed that he was aware of the two charges against him and that he did not object to the preliminary enquiry - the legal step needed to refer a case to the Crown Court.

While no facts surrounding the offences were opened in court, a prosecuting lawyer submitted to District Judge Peter King that the papers "disclose a prima facie case" against the alleged fraudster.

Connor's defence solicitor had no contrary submissions during the hearing and Judge King said he had read the statements and was satisfied that there was a case to answer.

The court clerk told Connor that although not obligated to, he had the right to comment on the charges, give evidence to the public enquiry or call witnesses, but he said simply "no" when asked if he wanted to present any evidence or comment.

Releasing an emotional-looking Connor on his own bail of £300, Judge King ordered the alleged fraudster to appear before the Crown Court on May 10 for arraignment.

It was during an application for legal aid that Connor's defence solicitor revealed that the defendant had sold his house to repay the money which had been taken.

Belfast Telegraph


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