The Court of Appeal has tripled a fine handed to a professional accountant and ordered 200 hours of community service for providing false auditor reports.
Ignatius Forde (62) with an address at Burrin Street, Carlow, was fined €1,000 for furnishing false information in purported compliance with the Companies Act by Judge Terence O'Sullivan at Carlow Cricuit Criminal Court on May 1 of this year.
Forde, who was originally charged with 50 counts under sections 187 and 242 of the Companies Act, was fined €1,000 for providing false auditor reports and the remaining counts were taken into consideration by the sentencing judge.
The Court of Appeal agreed today/yesterday (FRIDAY) with the Director of Public Prosecutions that the sentence handed down to Forde was unduly lenient.
Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Forde, while not a qualified auditor, used the names and signatures of two qualified auditors as well as an invented name to provide false auditor reports. He also falsely purported himself to be a qualified auditor.
Mr Justice Mahon said Forde had a number of previous convictions for similar offences. He said three of the offences which were subject to the DPP's appeal were committed within the suspended period of an earlier sentence.
The judge said Forde's clients, “including those who were victims, were generally local businesses”.
The businesses affected were “obliged to have their accounts re-audited”, Mr Justice Mahon said and “their good names and reputations had been harmed” by Forde's actions.
“A prison sentence was arguably warranted because of his repeat offending”, Mr Justice Mahon said.
Counsel for the DPP, Philipp Rahn BL, said the fine of €1,000 as a sentence for these offences was a substantial departure from the norm.
Mr Rahn said the offences were committed in relation to 13 client companies over a three year period. He submitted that Forde was a professional accountant and tax adviser who was seeking a business advantage by saying 'I can do things' which he wasn't qualified or entitled to provide.
Mr Rahn said the auditing of companies was something that was necessary to safeguard the public and companies doing business with the public.
Not only did Forde receive a conviction from the District Court in 2007 for similar offences but in March 2009 he received a six year suspended sentence. He did not desist from this type of activity and was committing these offences with impunity, Mr Rahn submitted.
Mr Justice Mahon, who sat alongside Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan ordered that Forde undertake 200 hours of community service in lieu of a 12-month sentence.
The Court of Appeal increased Forde's fine of €1,000 to one of €3,000 and gave him six months to pay.