Tuesday 24 April 2018

A race against time as charity's founders forced to come clean

Paul Kelly, Console founder Picture: Collins
Paul Kelly, Console founder Picture: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Amid all the twists and turns in the Console saga over the past fortnight, it is easy to forget that the suicide bereavement charity is still functioning and providing much-needed services.

The High Court heard yesterday that calls were up roughly 30pc over the past two weeks.

Around half of these were calls from concerned members of the public who wanted to wish staff well and express their support.

According to interim CEO David Hall, this outpouring of encouragement had demonstrated the need for the services provided and underlined support for hard-working staff and counsellors.

Behind the scenes, staff are still meeting clients, taking calls and running the call centre.

Mr Hall has repeatedly used the phrase that he is trying to "steady the ship".

And while services may be continuing relatively normally at the charity, there is still in his view a "serious and exceptional danger" faced by Console.

This is the continuing fear that its disgraced former chief executive and founder Paul Kelly and his wife Patricia may still have access to assets of the charity.

His fears would appear to be well placed.

According to an affidavit filed by Mr Hall with the High Court yesterday, Patricia Kelly instructed a solicitor to inform him last Saturday that he had been provided with all of the charity's books and records.

The assurance was given during the handover of cars which had been used by Mr and Mrs Kelly, an Audi Q5 and a Mercedes CLS.

A few days later, this assurance would be found to be completely untrue.

Acting on a tip-off, Mr Hall secured orders allowing him to search a storage facility in Naas, Co Kildare, where Mr and Mrs Kelly had been seen on June 28. The sighting there had occurred just a few days after Mr Kelly resigned as chief executive, following revelations in an RTÉ investigation, which exposed major governance and spending issues at the charity.

CCTV footage viewed by Mr Hall at the premises confirmed the Kellys had been present.

Gardaí accompanied the interim CEO and heavy duty lock-cutting equipment was used to gain access to a unit the Kellys had rented there.

There was a vast array of folders and documents inside, too many for Mr Hall to absorb in the space of a day. But they were undoubtedly the property of Console.

It was not too much of a leap then for Mr Hall to accuse Mrs Kelly of acting in contravention of court orders and acting in bad faith and with the intention to deceive. Mr Hall now believes the charity is in a race against time.

"Should the defendants be permitted to continue to act in a manner contrary to the best interests of Console, there is a very real risk that the services that Console provides to the vulnerable will be compromised or discontinued," he told the court yesterday.

Orders have been secured freezing the assets of Mr and Mrs Kelly and their son Tim.

Further orders were secured obliging the Kellys to hand over information on transfers dating back to 2012, as well as information on bank accounts and companies, trusts and foundations linked to Console which they may have been involved in.

Should they fail to provide the information they could be held in contempt of court and committed to prison.

Despite obtaining these orders, the sense of urgency remains.

James MacGuill, solicitor to Mr and Mrs Kelly, sought two weeks to comply with the orders. But counsel for Console, Martin Hayden SC, insisted this would be too long in a situation where the defendants had already shown themselves to be untrustworthy.

He expressed fears that the longer things dragged on, the more difficult it would be to unravel Console's finances.

Basic matters related to the charity's finances remain unclear.

The situation has been complicated by the hospitalisation of Mr Kelly, who is seen as the key to piecing together the puzzle.

Further twists and turns are expected when the case returned to court next week.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News