Victim impact statement read into court
In a victim impact statement read to the court, retired solicitor Simon Kennedy spoke of the impact the embezzlement by his former secretary has had on himself, his family and his practice.
He said he set up his legal practice in 1983 and Pauline Maher came to work for him as a secretary/typist in 1991/1992, working on and off for him in following years.
'My practice experienced difficulties in 2003 and I merged with another firm in Dublin ...and Pauline was let go. Subsequently, in 2006 the practice demerged and I recommenced practice under my own name. I borrowed heavily and invested in refurbishing the building and in computerising the office. I head hunted Pauline as I believed she was ideal for the job of office manager.
'A controversy arose between myself and the bank in 2008 and Pauline was involved in work on this with me. The office was put in a perilous position. A new bank was found. Controversy with the Revenue Commissioners around this time ended after a long and eventful litigation with them, whereby an instalment arrangement was agreed. Pauline witnessed my signature on the agreement.
Read more here: Legal secretary embezzled €109,000 from solicitor
'The pressures on the office and myself at this time were very heavy and I started to drink heavily. Mostly I went on binges and depended on Pauline during my absences. After the demerger in 2006, my wife assisted me in the management of the accounts. One of my daughters tended to the reception and did typing duty. One of my sons worked with me as a legal executive. I addition I had a secretary and an assistant book-keeper. Pauline took over the management and administration of the practice and relieved my wife of the duties she had been discharging up to then.
'At the start of 2010, I applied to be admitted to St. John's Hospital in Stillorgan because of my drinking. Shortly before my admission I received a call from my son to say that he had discovered a discrepancy and believed Pauline was taking money. I was shocked. I asked him to carry out investigations, which he did.
'On my return my son presented me with the result of his investigations arising from which I immediately called in accountants, the Law Society and the gardai. Pauline admitted she had taken the monies and left a note of resignation, never to return again.
'The discovery revealed that not alone had she taken money on me personally, but also money from the client account which I had to immediately restore which I did with assistance from friends and family to the satisfaction of the Law Society. On this basis I was allowed to continue in practice.
'I now had the added difficulty in maintaining the monthly repayments agreed in 2008 to pay to the Revenue Commissioners. I asked to meet with them but they declined and responded by issuing proceedings in bankruptcy against me. I was declared bankrupt on 18 June, 2012.
'I've been suspended from practice in consequence and the office has been closed. I remain in litigation with the banks.
'Following the closure, I became unemployed. My wife, who was relieved of her position on the arrival of Pauline, returned once more. Upon the bankruptcy and the closure of the office she once more became unemployed. She now receives unemployment benefit for both of us. In April 2014 I was diagnosed with an adenocarcinoma of the right lung and had a lobectomy performed. This was followed by further treatment by chemotherapy and later radiotherapy. I am happy to relate I have recently been making great progress.
'I do not hold Pauline responsible for my bankruptcy, though it may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. The fault for this lies with me and others. Nor does the issue of my illness have any connection with her but is recited here to give a complete account of my current circumstances and context.
'The greatest concern I have is for those who gave me money to survive this embezzlement and because I became bankrupt I have been unable to repay them. Family members of Pauline's gave met €1,000 at a point in time when I was completely destitute and they were at their wits end to know what to do, while acknowledging the amount that was taken was too much for them to repay. I suggested they take legal avice to see how they might help.
'Since she left the office Pauline contacted me and asked me to forgive her. I pointed out that whilst I could forgive I could only do so for myself, that people who gave me money were at a loss, and others, especially my wife and family, had been badly affected and were very upset. She informed me she would make some attempt to have restitution made though she admitted she had no money herself.
'I believe her to have suffered a lot and I am glad this matter is coming to an end for all our sakes. I believe she has suffered as much and more, since her last day in my office up until now, that any prison sentence could have caused her to suffer. We have moved on with our lives as best we can. The Revenue Commissioners got their just desserts in making me bankrupt - nothing. I am in litigation with the banks over certain matters from which they have to answer for and to which I have to face up to, and I am happy to do this.
'The one concern I do have at this point is the repayment to those I have referred to above, who loaned me money to survive the embezzlement and have not been repaid.'