An east Belfast man who stole just under £15,000 from Danske Bank in a three-hour period has been as handed a combination order in court.
Mark Thomas Irwin took advantage of a technical fault with the bank to withdraw £14,835 from several ATMs in Belfast, and made three more unsuccessful efforts to take out a further £850.
The 35-year-old, who used the money to pay back loan sharks he owed money to over gambling debts, was placed under two years probation and ordered to complete 60 hours community service.
Crown prosecutor Natalie Pinkerton told Judge David McFarland that Irwin’s offending was carried out over a short period between 10.15pm on September 6, 2017 and 1.10am on September 7.
The theft occurred at time when there were technical difficulties with the bank in Denmark. The ‘malfunction’ affected ATMs and meant Danske Bank customers were able to withdraw unlimited funds, regardless of how much was in their accounts.
In a three-hour timeframe Irwin, from Lord Street Mews, withdrew cash from six different ATMs, some of which he used then returned to.
When the bank became aware of the malfunction and the subsequent thefts, officials contacted the PSNI. Ms Pinkerton said Irwin attended with police voluntarily in June 2018, when he accepted he had withdrawn the cash.
The prosecutor said Irwin told police he knew he didn’t have that amount in his account, and also revealed he had been in touch with the bank and had offered to repay the amount at £50 per month.
Irwin, Ms Pinkerton said, accepted what he did from the outset and said he used the money to pay back gambling debts – but told police he did not want to give the names of those he owed money to for fear of his own safety.
When asked how he became aware of the glitch, Irwin said he heard some woman in a shop on the Castlereagh Road telling people ‘the bank was giving away free money’.
Defence barrister Jonathan Browne said Irwin had a difficult childhood which impacted on his mental health, as did witnessing a shooting outside his house.
The barrister said an element of Irwin’s mental health issues was an inability to exercise proper judgment – which Mr Browne said contributed to the significant amount of gambling debt his client accrued.
Judge McFarland said that as all the transactions were recorded during the malfunction, he told Irwin “ultimately the knock would come to your door”.
Saying he accepted the offending was “impulsive and spontaneous”, Judge McFarland handed Irwin a combination order consisting of probation and community service.