Northern Ireland news

Councillor warned he is 'working his way into jail'

Independent councillor Patrick Clarke appears at Downpatrick Court on Thursday. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Staff Reporter

A JUDGE has warned a councillor he is facing the prospect of going to jail for fraud and breaching his probation order.

Having heard that 41-year-old independent councillor Patrick Joseph Clarke had defrauded Dundrum Village Association and had missed probation appointments, District Judge Greg McCourt told him "you are working your way into jail".

During an earlier hearing at Downpatrick Magistrates Court Clarke, from Mill Hill Court in Castlewellan, pleaded guilty to fraud by abusing the position he held with Dundrum Village Association to lodge a £750 cheque into his own account on September 22 last year.

On Thursday a prosecuting lawyer outlined how the NI Housing Executive had issued the cheque to the village association but it was never lodged into their account.

Arrested and interviewed last September, former Alliance Party councillor Clarke admitted what he had done and offered to repay the money but the lawyer revealed that nothing had been handed over as yet.

Last June, at the same court, Clarke admitted he swindled almost £2,000 from Drumaroad regeneration scheme but escaped being sent to jail, instead being handed a year on probation and 100 hours community service combination order.

On Thursday Judge McCourt heard he failed to attend appointments and while he completed right hours community service, had not turned up for other scheduled work.

Defence barrister Niamh McCartney conceded Clarke had another case pending against him, this time accused of burglary with intent to cause criminal damage at a neighbours home with his trial listed on January 7 next year. He has already pleaded guilty.

Clarke was due to be sentenced for the latest fraud and breaching the combination order yesterday but Judge McCourt adjourned those to join up with the burglary case.

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