The former head of the USPCA, Stephen Philpott, has pleaded guilty to using his position as chief executive of the animal charity to defraud the organisation over a seven-year period between January 2007 and November 2014.
The guilty plea by the 54-year-old from Ashgrove Road, Newry came as he was about to go on trial in the city before a Crown Court jury of seven women and five men.
Philpott had faced a total of three charges, but following an adjournment before the start of his trial, defence QC James Gallagher asked for his client to be rearraigned on the third count of the indictment.
The particulars of the fraud charged Philpott with having obtained rental payments but “failed to account for the said payments and failed to bring notice of the said payments to the attention of the USPCA, with the intention, by means of the abuse of that position to make a gain for yourself or another or to cause loss to the USPCA or to expose the USPCA to a risk of a loss”.
Prosecution QC Liam McCollum said in light of the guilty plea, counts one and two, accusing Philpott of stealing from the animal charity and attempting to cause criminal damage to a residential property and its contents, should “remain on the books, not to be proceeded with, without leave of the court or Court of Appeal”.
No details concerning Philpott’s fraud were given to the court during the shortened hearing.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC released Philpott on continuing bail until December during which time a pre-sentence and other reports will be compiled, including the possibility for compensation proceedings involving the former chief executive.
In a statement afterwards, Helen L Wilson, USPCA chairperson, said: “These matters were uncovered as a result of actions taken by the trustees to strengthen governance oversight within the charity. It is with some sorrow more than anger, that our concerns have proved to be justified.
“I can assure our members and the public generally, that the charity has remained fully focused on its core charitable objectives of preventing cruelty and relieving suffering in animals.”