Community service for £75k church fraudster

Seaforde Presbyterian Church

Seaforde Presbyterian Church

A church treasurer who stole over £75,000 from the congregation has been largely forgiven for his “disgraceful” behaviour, a court heard today.

Terrence Connor, who occupied the position as treasurer of Seaforde Presbyterian Church in Co Down for 19 years, pocketed a total of £75,180.32 over a period spanning from January 2007 to April 2014.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that he sold his house to pay back the money he stole from funds raised by the congregation to improve the church’s facilities.

The 63-year old, from Castle Heights in Dundrum, was handed a combination order consisting of 100 hours community service and two years probation after he admitted a charge of fraud by abuse of position.

Passing sentence, Judge Piers Grant told Connor that he had been forgiven by most of the congregation. Urging Connor to return to the church to resume worship, the Judge said: “Your pew is available for you and they (the congregation) expect to see you back.”

Connor’s offending came to light in April 2014, when he went to the home of the minister of Seaforde Presbyterian Church and confessed he had been taking money from the collection raised by the congregation.

This money, the court heard, was being raised to improve facilities and was being earmarked for a new church hall.

Judge Grant said he accepted that Connors had spent the money on “general matters” rather than “on a lavish lifestyle.”

When the treasurer’s offending became a police matter, he sold his house, raised the “substantial amount” he stole and repaid the money back in full to the church.

Judge Grant said he had listened to “very persuasive” arguments from members of the church, who said that whilst they found Connors actions to be “disgraceful”, they didn’t want him sent to jail.

The Judge said they acted in a “Christian way” to support him, and a “vast majority” of the congregation have forgiven him. Judge Grant told Connors that he should repay their kindness by going back to church and resuming worship.

Connors - who was remanded in prison ahead of today’s sentencing - was warned not to re-offend or he would be risk being sent to prison.

Judge Grant said: “You have spent a short period of time in custody and I hope you did not enjoy that. I hope you recognise just how unpleasant that can be.”