A Belfast man who took advantage of a Danske Bank technical fault affecting ATMs to steal £10,700 over a two-hour period has been given a community service order.
Jamie Scott Leitch, a father of three from Ardkeen Crescent, admitted stealing the money in September 2017 and used it to pay for his wedding.
Belfast Crown Court heard that while the 38-year old self-employed joiner contacted the bank and has offered to pay back £200 a month, this offer was rejected by Danske.
As well as being ordered to “give something back” via a 200-hour community service order, Judge RoseAnn McCormick QC also fined Leitch £1,000.
A crown prosecutor said that on September 6, 2017, technical issues arose with the Danske Bank in Denmark, which resulting in a number of difficulties including malfunctions of ATMs.
During this period of malfunction, Danske Bank customers were able to withdraw cash from ATMs using their bank cards – but the money didn’t come out of or affect their account balances.
Saying customers were able to withdraw money, even if they didn’t have it in their accounts, the prosecutor said that during the period of malfunction a total of £1.628m was withdrawn.
In March 2018, it emerged that while around £273,000 has since been recouped, there was still an outstanding loss to Danske Bank of around £1.35m.
Danske Bank subsequently passed details onto police of customers who had withdrawn cash over the period in question - one of whom was a relative of Leitch’s wife.
These details indicated that this customer’s bank card had been used to make 54 separate withdrawals of cash over a period of just over two hours - from 10pm on September 6 to just after midnight on September 7.
The first withdrawal was £100 from an ATM on the Woodstock Road, and apart from the 53 other withdrawals, there were also a further four unsuccessful attempts.
In total Leitch - using his wife’s relative’s bank card - withdrew a total of £10,700 from various ATMs in and around Belfast.
Leitch was spoken to by police in May 2018, and initially made the case that his wife’s relative owed him money and had given him his bank card to lift £200. He also claimed he didn’t know about the technical difficulties and maintained his innocence - but later admitted a single count of theft.
The prosecutor said that while the Crown accepted this was an opportunistic crime, Leitch did drive to numerous bank machines over a short period - which indicated “some degree of planning.”
Defence barrister Mark Farrell branded his client’s offending as “very easy to commit and very easy to detect.”
The barrister said that while Leitch had made efforts to repay the bank £200, this offer has not been accepted, and added: “Over 1,500 people were able to access more funds than they had.”
Regarding Leitch, Mr Farrell said he was a hard-working family man who at the time was struggling with finances, and who used most of the money to fund his wedding. Saying Leitch “fell into the lure of committing this offence”, Mr Farrell said he had expressed regret and remorse and has “acknowledged his wrong-doing.”