A 36-year-old man who gave cheques he knew couldn’t be cashed to two people he owed money to has been jailed for the “mean-spirited” act.
Michael Desmond Smyth admitted six separate counts of fraud by false representation, and was handed a three-year sentence by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC.
Belfast Crown Court heard the two men – one of whom is a church minister – lent Smyth thousands of pounds when he was “down on his luck”.
One of the lenders was so upset by what occurred that he asked for, and was granted, a five-year restraining order against Smyth.
While Smyth, who has 79 convictions on his criminal record, has since paid back some of the money he owes to the two men, much of the debt remains outstanding.
Smyth, of Kennedy Square in Downpatrick, gave each of his lenders three cheques for various amounts, which he knew could never be honoured as the bank account was no longer operational.
During sentencing, the court heard that “every penny” obtained by Smyth was used to fund his gambling addiction. It also emerged that Smyth felt a “sense of satisfaction” when he was borrowing money, knowing he couldn’t pay it back.
Smyth handed over a total of six Co-Operative Bank cheques between May and August 2015 knowing full well the account had been closed since 2013.
He gave the minister cheques totalling £6,225 while he handed the second man cheques amounting to £5,010.
Crown prosecutor Mark Farrell said the cheques were from a third party, were not in Smyth’s name and were not honoured due to the closure of the account.
Both men alerted the authorities in 2015 when the cheques failed to clear. When Smyth was interviewed in October 2015, he admitted knowing they would not be honoured.
Defence barrister Sean Doherty pointed out that while this was a case of fraud, there was no financial loss to the bank.
He did, however, accept both lenders had suffered a financial loss and stress due to Smyth’s actions.
Sentencing Smyth, Judge Miller said the offending was “mean-spirited in the extreme”, adding Smyth had displayed a lack of victim empathy.
He will serve a year of his sentence in prison, followed by a two-year period on licence when he is released.