independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

LGBTQ finance director avoids jail sentence after stealing €10,000 from Dublin-based firm

John Finucane outside court yesterday
John Finucane outside court

A man has avoided jail after he stole over €10,000 from the organisation which runs the annual Gay Pride Parade while he worked there as financial director.

John Finucane (35) of Bridgewater Quay, Islandbridge, was given a three-year suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

He had pleaded guilty to a number of counts of stealing cash from the Dublin Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) organisation based in Capel Street on dates between October 29, 2011 and December 11, 2011.

The charges represented Finucane using the cards for unauthorised payments totalling €10,403, over nine weeks.

Finucane has eight previous convictions, seven of them in the UK, arising from him engaging in a sexual relationship with a 13-year old boy.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said Finucane had taken advantage of the LGBTQ, a voluntary organisation which depends primarily on the support of donations.

“It was badly-needed money for an organisation that does work that is needed in the community,” she said.

It emerged in court that Finucane's parents found out about his criminal activity by reading it in the newspapers, despite Judge Ring having warned him expressly to tell his family before they found out from the press.

Lorcan Staines BL, defending, said that nonetheless, Finucane's relationship with his parents is on the mend and they have offered him accommodation after he was homeless for a number of months before Christmas.

Detective Garda Derek O’Rourke told Michael Bowman BL, prosecuting, that Finucane had been working in a voluntary capacity as financial director of the organisation at the time of the offences and had access to two credit cards.

He either bought items with the card or withdrew cash from ATMs using the PIN that had been supplied to him. Finucane paid for hotel rooms and into nightclubs for himself and his then partner, bought Christmas presents for his family and friends and flowers for his partner’s mother.

Det Gda O’Rourke said Finucane later told gardaí that he had been planning to kill himself and was anticipating that a payment due to him could be used, upon his death, to reimburse LGBTQ.

“He had made a decision on what he was going to do with his life and had decided to rain gifts on people,” Mr Staines said.

He told Judge Ring that his client’s previous convictions from England relate to what he termed as a consensual relationship with a 13-year-old boy, but acknowledged that obviously the child was not capable of consenting to such a relationship.

Finucane was 25-years-old at the time and counsel said the relationship had not gone further than kissing. The child had sent him photographs of himself but Finucane had not replied to them.

He served 18 months in prison for the offence and returned to Ireland when he was released. It was the first such conviction under legislation that had recently come into existence in the UK.

As part of his sentence he was due to report to gardaí in Ireland and when he failed to do so he received a further conviction in the District Court.

Mr Staines told Judge Ring that Finucane does not have the funds to reimburse LGBTQ.

He said Finucane suffers from anxiety, depression and stress and had been diagnosed with a serious illness around the time of this offence.

Finucane had been seeing a psychologist throughout his life and had suffered thoughts of suicidal ideation for many years. He is currently studying for a degree in Economics.

Judge Ring said €10,000 was “a severe shortfall” to a voluntary organisation such as LGBTQ and Finucane’s actions represented “a significant betrayal.”

She sentenced Finucane to three years in prison but suspended it on condition that he keeps the peace for three years and complies with probation services for 18 months. <ends>

 Additional evidence

Det Gda O’Rourke said LGBTQ is run voluntarily by a board of directors that organises the annual Gay Pride Parade.

Finucane put himself forward as financial director while working full-time as a student and as such had joint responsibility with a second director for the organisation’s two credit cards.

He admitted to gardaí that he first withdrew money when his partner and he could not get a taxi home following a concert in the city centre. He used the funds to book a hotel room for the night.

Gardaí were alerted to the thefts by another director in January 2012 and Finucane made a voluntary statement the following July.

By that stage he had written a letter of resignation to LGBTQ admitting the thefts and promising to pay them back

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