Northern Ireland news

Man spent £28,000 stolen from Danske Bank on 'drink, drugs, Amsterdam and fine girls'

A technical issue affecting its ATMs meant Danske Bank customers could withdraw unlimited funds

A 28-year-old man who told police he spent £28,000 he stole from Danske Bank on "drink, drugs, Amsterdam and fine girls" has been spared jail.

Judge Stephen Fowler handed Clarke Robert McCrea a six-month sentence suspended for two years.

McCrea, a carer from McCandless Street in the Shankill area of Belfast, is one of several people to appear before Belfast Crown Court charged with theft from the bank.

He stole £28,391 between September 6 and 7 2017 at time when there were technical difficulties with the bank in Denmark.

The issue affected ATMs and meant Danske Bank customers could withdraw unlimited funds regardless of how much was in their accounts.

Around 1,500 customers subsequently withdrew around £1.6m in excess of available funds during the 'malfunction period'.

Crown prosecutor Natalie Pinkerton said McCrea used seven separate ATMs on 120 occasions in little more than three hours.

Ms Pinkerton said when the malfunction and withdrawals came to light, the PSNI was informed and spreadsheet provided which showed all the ATMs affected.

When arrested and interviewed, McCrea said he initially used a cash machine to withdraw money from his account, and when he used the machine it it gave him extra money - so he put his card in again and it kept giving him cash.

Ms Pinkerton revealed that when police asked what he spent the money on, McCrea told officers it went on "drink, drugs, Amsterdam and fine girls".

Asked if he had £28,000 in his account at the time, McCrea said the money could have come from a betting account or from benefits being paid.

The prosecutor concluded the Crown case by telling Judge Fowler that McCrea has 26 previous convictions which include dishonesty offences.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey said McCrea has already contacted the bank and has "shown a willingness" to repay the money, but this has not been possible yet due to the criminal proceedings.

He said: "Whilst it is unrealistic that he will pay it all back, he had been making efforts."

Mr McConkey also said that at the time of the offending, McCrea was misusing drugs, adding that he was now "combating" this issue.

The defence barrister acknowledged that while his client had a relevant criminal record, he pointed out that the last offence was eight years ago, and said a new partner was helping to keep McCrea "on the straight and narrow".

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