Former Freemason treasurer admits stealing £120,000 from own lodge

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim headquarters in Rosemary Street, Belfast

A former senior member of the Freemasons has pleaded guilty to stealing over £120,000 from his own lodge.

Stanley William Murphy, 63, of Broomhill Court, Magheralin, Co Down, appeared at Belfast Crown Court where his case was listed for trial.

The Masonic Temple for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim, Rosemary Street Belfast. Picture by Brian Little

In May this year, he pleaded not guilty to a total of 15 charges when he appeared at the same court for an arraignment hearing.

But on Tuesday his defence barrister applied to the court to have Murphy rearraigned on all charges he faced.

The defendant pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by abuse of position and further entered guilty pleas to 14 counts of stealing £121,504 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim which has its headquarters in Rosemary Street in Belfast city centre.

According to court papers, the fraud by abuse of position took place over a two-and-half-year period dating back a decade ago.

At the time of the offences, Murphy was the grand treasurer of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim.

The fraud charge stated that on a date between January 14, 2007 and July 9, 2009, he “dishonestly and intending thereby to make a gain for himself or another, or to cause a loss to another, or to expose another to a risk of loss, abused his position as treasurer, in which he was expected to safeguard, or not act against the financial interests of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim”.

The 14 theft charges date back almost 11 years ago and span a three-year period from July 2006 to July 2009.

They state he stole amounts ranging from as little as £1,400 to over £26,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim’s account it held with the Northern Bank.

A defence barrister confirmed to Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that “no restitution” would be made in the case.

Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay told the court that there would be no proceeds of crime application against Murphy.

Judge McFarland ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared by the Probation Service ahead of sentencing in October.

Releasing him on continuing bail, the Belfast Recorder warned Murphy: “Do not take that as an indication of what sentence will be passed on that date. You are free to go.”

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