Thursday 17 October 2019

Ex-principal who stole €204,000 from school jailed by Court of Appeal

Stock picture
Stock picture

Ruaidhri Giblin

A former principal who stole €204,000 from his school for golf equipment and weekends away has been sent to jail after his original suspended sentence was deemed too lenient.

Finbarr Boyle (39), with an address in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to five counts of theft and two counts of forgery while he was principal at Kilnaleck National School in Co Cavan between 2007 and 2012.

Boyle, who originally faced 23 counts on the indictment, was given a wholly suspended two-year sentence, on condition he repay €25,000, by Judge John Aylmer at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court on March 15, 2018.

The Court of Appeal found Boyle's sentence to be "unduly lenient" yesterday, on foot of an appeal brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was sentenced to 15 months and immediately taken into custody.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Kilnaleck was a small school with five teachers and approximately 70 pupils. He said the theft and fraud was uncovered following the election of a new treasurer by the school's board of management in January 2012.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the irregularities fell into a number of different categories. Boyle used the school's visa card to pay for meals in restaurants, golf equipment and weekends away to the tune of €66,000.

Finbarr Boyle
Finbarr Boyle

Cheques were improperly drawn on school accounts amounting to €29,000 and €32,000. Another €2,850 was misapplied from the school's post office account.

Mr Justice Birmingham said another fraud was uncovered in relation to the School Meals Programme run by the Department of Social Protection. Kilnaleck withdrew from the scheme in 2008 but Boyle continued to submit claims to the relevant department, ultimately resulting in a theft of €73,000.

When the department opted for electronic transfer, Boyle opened a second bank account with a view to obtaining further funds. The existence of the second bank account only came to light when authorities sought to close the first one.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions Monica Lawlor BL said the money was stolen for "selfish reasons" - meals, weekends away and a "very large amount of golf equipment".

She said there was much disquiet in a rural area that someone in a position of trust could steal €200,000 and be required to repay only €25,000.

Mr Justice Birmingham said there were two injured parties, namely the "public purse" and a small rural school, the impact on which must have been "significant".

Irish Independent

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