Finance officer jailed for £15,000 fraud to feed drug addiction

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A Belfast woman who admitted defrauding more than £15,000 from a community organisation in which murdered ex-IRA leader Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison was a director, has been jailed for nine months.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told 39-year-old former finance officer Niamh Marie Rose Bradley that he had “concluded a custodial sentence is inevitable”, and had she contested the case she would have been given 16 months.

Bradley admitted defrauding the Donegall Pass-based Cromac Regeneration Initiative (CRI) group over a two-year period up to November last year. The group was also fined more than £1,000 by HMRC VAT as a result.

Earlier Judge Miller had remarked that “acts of theft come in many forms, but a breach of trust is the worst kind”, adding later that: “The position quite simply is that effectively £16,500 was misappropriated, or lost as a result of the defendant’s actions.”

Bradley, with an address in the Old Westland Road in the north of the city, admitted taking CRI monies to fund her drug addiction and to treat family and friends.

Prosecution barrister Robin Steer said Bradley had initially “broken down in tears” after claiming she could not find the community bank books needed for an audit last November.

Eventually she returned in early December and confessed to her manager “that she had doctored” bank statements to cover her taking cheques and lodging them into her own account.

Mr Steer said Bradley said she had “a drug addiction”, at which stage her manager told her she had “no choice but to sack her and inform the police”. In all there were 28 separate transactions amounting to £15,447.18.

Solicitor advocate Stephen Keown said Bradley, who readily admitted her guilt to police, had a history of mental health difficulties from a young age and had used the money, about £200 to £300 a week, to buy cannabis and also to spend on family and acquaintances.

However, he added while Bradley “apologised” and her admissions indicated her remorse, regret and shame, she had “no means of getting her hands on this type of money” to make restitution.

The CRI community group, who gave Bradley a chance in employing her despite a previous criminal record, was set up as a limited company in 2010 following the amalgamation of three communities in inner south Belfast.

CRI says its stated aim is to “promote the mutual understanding and respect for the cultural traditions of others ... plus the breaking down of barriers leading to harmonious relationships”.

Former IRA Belfast commander Davison was one of eight directors in the limited company. However, in May, 2015, when the 47-year-old was murdered, Companies House recorded that he had resigned his directorship.