A schizophrenic who stole £30,000 from his mother’s life savings, which he then spent on drink and gambling, has escaped a jail term.
Christopher Joseph Boyle, from Fitzroy Avenue in Belfast, was placed on probation for two years after he admitted stealing the money his mother had saved to cover her own funeral costs.
The 59-year-old was told by Judge Gordon Kerr that he had committed a serious offence against his own mother.
Crown prosecutor Simon Jenkins said that in April 2013, Catherine Boyle told her five children that she had saved £38,000, which she had placed under the stairs of the home she shared with her son Christopher.
Mr Jenkins said Mrs Boyle had “saved this money up over a significant number of years”.
After she revealed the amount and whereabouts of the money to her five children, the siblings agreed it should be stored at her house and would be used for “funeral expenses for the older generation when the time came”.
In November 2014, Mrs Boyle raised the prospect of covering funeral expenses with her eldest child Christopher – and it was at his stage that he told her there was only around £8,000 of the £38,000 left.
When challenged, Boyle admitted he had spent the money on alcohol and gambling.
He also told a family member he would bet £500 or £1,000 on a horse race, adding he was “addicted to drink and betting”.
The theft was reported to police, and when he was arrested and interviewed, Boyle made no comment to questions put to him.
Mr Jenkins also revealed that since his arrest, Boyle has spent a total of five months on remand.
Defence barrister Sean Mullan said his client suffered from a range of mental health issues including schizophrenia.
He reiterated his client’s claim that he was addicted to both gambling and alcohol, saying Boyle was sorry for what he did – especially given that he stole from his own mother.
Mr Mullan also said that while the theft has rendered Boyle isolated both socially and from his family, there may be the potential for a reconciliation.