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Sunday 24 September 2017

Ex-suicide charity boss admits stealing €36k

Declan Behan outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.
Declan Behan outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

Sonya McLean

A FORMER chief executive of a suicide awareness charity will be sentenced next month for stealing more than €36,000 from the organisation.

Declan Behan (42), of Boyne View, Slaney, Co Meath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to six sample charges of theft from the Irish Association of Suicidology (IAS) on dates between November 2010 and September 2012.

The separated father of three has no previous convictions and has not come to garda attention since. He is now a self-employed gardener.

The court heard that Behan, who earned €70,000 per year, used the charity's Visa card for about 300 unauthorised transactions totalling €36,540.

He used the card to withdraw cash from ATMs but also for electronic payments.

The IAS is a registered charity with an annual budget for €150,000 and was set up to promote suicide awareness through publications and organising conferences. The HSE is responsible for 60pc of its funding, while the remainder is made up of donations from the public and fundraising.

The organisation's public funding was initially suspended, pending the garda investigation.

It has since been reinstated but not to the same extent – and the ISA, while fully functioning again, has not appointed a CEO.

RESPONSIBILITY

Behan took responsibility for the thefts and indicated he would reimburse the IAS. He has since paid back €35,500.

Detective Sergeant Barry Walsh told the court that Behan used the cash for living expenses and to supplement his income.

He said many of the transactions related to buying petrol or groceries and confirmed there was "no element of extravagance".

Behan texted the organisation's co-founder, consultant psychiatrist Dr John Connolly, on September 14, 2012, telling him that he had been living off the organisation for the previous two years. Behan stated in the text that "everyone would be better off if I just disappeared".

He was in New York at the time having used the organisation's card to book the flight and a one-night stay in a hotel.

Det Sgt Walsh said Dr Connolly was worried about the accused and tried calling him but his mobile phone was switched off.

Det Sgt Walsh told the court that auditors had been chasing Behan at the time to get the necessary financial data to complete the accounts.

The court heard that Behan's family were in court to support him and had written testimonials on his behalf.

The court was also given references from Behan's parish priest, his children's school and other members of his community.

Judge Patricia Ryan adjourned the case to next month and remanded Behan on bail.

She ordered a report from the Probation and Welfare Service for that date.

Irish Independent

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