Former Rosslare Golf Club captain given suspended prison sentence
A FORMER Rosslare Golf Club captain, who pleaded guilty on four counts of theft, has been given a six month suspended prison sentence on condition that he undertakes a restoration programme.
At Wexford Circuit Court on May 19, 57-year-old Nicholas O'Connor, of Troon Lodge, Ballycrane, Castlebridge, had pleaded guilty to a charge that on December 3, 2012, he stole €1,207 by lodging cheque to account of Reddy O'Connor & Co. in favour of Nicholas O'Connor property of one James Parle, of Clovervalley, Taghmon.
He also pleaded guilty to similar charges to the amount of €4,800 on January 30, 2013; €3,200 on May 15, 2013, and €975 on May 22, 2013.
Garda Sean Whelan said that on October 8, 2013, James Parle contacted him regarding his accountant - the defendant. He said that at that time O'Connor had made several attempts to have two cheques issued which he (Mr. Parle) signed. The injured party also said that he gave O'Connor a further two cheques on October 26 which he also signed.
The cheques, said Garda Whelan, were supposed to be for the settlement of Mr. Parle's account. They were to be paid for the defendant's fees and to the Revenue Commissioners. The total amount involved was about €10,182 which included professional fees of €300 to €400 euro.
Garda Whelan said that when arrested, the defendant made admissions that he had lodged the cheques to his own company's account, which was how Mr. Parle discovered that the Revenue had not been paid on his behalf. At that stage he confronted the defendant who admitted that he had made out the cheques to his own company and not to the Revenue. There were about four cheques involved. He said that Mr. Parle is a single man, a retired farmer, who lived alone. He was aware of the case going on but did not want to give evidence.
Garda Whelan said that Mr. Parle had been fully reimbursed and that the defendant had also returned his professional fees. He also said that Mr. Parle did not get into any trouble with the Revenue Commissioners. The defendant, who is a married man with three grown children, had no previous convictions and had an unblemished record prior to this. He also co-operated fully with the investigation.
Defence Counsel, Michelle de Brun, said that Mr. Parle had been a client of the defendant for many years. She said that Mr. Parle would put his signature on the cheques, and give them to the defendant who would fill them in for liability to make payable to the Revenue. However, the four cheques which Mr. Parle signed were lodged to the defendant's own account. When making the transactions the defendant would usually take into account the Revenue liability and add on his own professional fees.
Ms de Brun said the full monies had been recovered with no profits being made out of the transactions. Her client had no previous convictions and had not come to the garda attention since. He co-operated fully with the investigation, making full admissions immediately.
The cheques, she said, were originally intended for the payment of tax but the defendant had lodged them to his own account when short of money. He co-operated and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. When the monies were paid back to Mr. Parle on April 16, 2014, he contacted Taghmon Garda Station asking to withdraw his statement but at that stage that would have been a decision for the DPP.
Ms de Brun also said that the matter had originally been in the District Court where the DPP had directed summary disposal on a guilty plea but Judge James Coughlan declined to hear the matter. Prosecuting Counsel, Sinead Gleeson told Judge Hickson that Mr. Parle found out about the cheques having contacted the Revenue Commissioners.
Ms de Brun said the defendant was an accountant for many years, and that this was a serious lack of judgement. He had put the money into his own account, intending to pay it back. When Mr. Parle contacted him had made whatever arrangements were necessary to pay back the money in full. It was a serious breach of trust. He had not intended to hold on to the money and was waiting until there were sufficient funds in his account to pay it back.
The Defence Counsel said it was also noted in the Probation and Welfare report that the defendant had made his peace with Mr. Parle, and is at low risk of reoffending. She also said that there is a letter from Mr. Parle before the court asking that O'Connor not be sent to jail. Ms de Brun added that the Probation and Welfare report recommended defendant's referral by the Probation Services to The Restorative Justice Services Higher Tariff Offender Reparation programme. The service would facilitate the defendant making reparation to the community for his offences through the organisation of approved voluntary work within the community in an organisation such as MABS. This would serve to fully utilise the defendant's professional skills for the benefit and good of the community.
Judge Hickson said the defendant had pleaded guilty, accepted responsibility for the offences, and made his peace with Mr Parle.
Judge Hickson said he would recommend the report of the Probation and Welfare services that required the defendant to do voluntary work and to utilise his skills for the benefit of the community, the hours to be determined by the Social Justice programme itself. The Judge said he would sentence the defendant to six months in prison on each count to run concurrently, suspended on the defendant entering into a bond of €100 to keep the peace for two years.