Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland CEO who faked Queen's degree on CV cleared of fraud

By Sarah Henderson

This is the businessman who a judge believes faked details on his CV.

But Donaghadee man Peter Allen Hewitt has been acquitted of fraud, despite the judge saying he was sure the 57-year-old did not have the qualifications he claimed to have on a resume.

Hewitt had worked as a £60,000 chief executive for a firm owned by entrepreneur Kenneth McFeeters from January 2013 to March 2014.

But last week, Hewitt appeared at Ards Magistrates Court accused of making false statements on his CV by claiming he had a BSc in economics from Queen's University and misrepresenting his experience with a previous employer, a Bangor car dealership.

Hewitt was alleged to have made up the claims with the aim of making a gain for himself and causing a loss to his boss, entrepreneur McFeeters, on January 1, 2013.

But at the end of a two-day contest, Judge Peter King said while he was sure that Hewitt had faked his details on his CV, the prosecution had not convinced him beyond reasonable doubt that his actions amounted to criminal fraud.

The prosecution had earlier admitted that its case contained several "gaps and inconsistencies".

The court heard that on January 1, 2013, Hewitt officially started work at Mr McFeeters' company as CEO, a position that was specifically created with funding from Invest NI. The prosecution said Hewitt's CV containing a faked degree and misrepresented work experience was provided between June 2012 and Hewitt starting work. But Hewitt's lawyer said his client maintained he handed in his CV after he started as CEO.

The prosecution alleged that the CV may have been used in securing the Invest NI funding. But the prosecution produced no documentary evidence from Invest NI or notes from any interview panels that might have proved when the CV was submitted.

The defence said that in the absence of interview notes, it was impossible for the court to know if the CV was submitted before Hewitt was offered the job, or, if the CV had swung the panel's decision to give him the job even if they did have it.

Judge King said he had no doubt Hewitt did not possess the qualifications he claimed on his CV and added that if the case had been a civil lawsuit he would have had no hesitation finding against Hewitt.

"But this is not a civil case," the judge said. "This is a criminal case with a greater burden of proof than [a civil case's] balance of probabilities. I must be sure beyond reasonable doubt and I am not sure. Neither the documentary evidence nor the testimony I have heard is robust enough to convict beyond reasonable doubt."

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