A Co Down bookmaker has been fined £4,500 and ordered to pay back £100,000 for illegally opening his shop for Sunday betting.
Newry Crown Court heard that Benedict Gerard Boyle, 47, of Doyles Villas, Camlough, Newry, raked in £250,000 over the two-and-a-half years he was illegally opening his shop to punters.
Prosecutor Michael Chambers told the court that police in Newry “received intelligence’’ in October 2012 that Boyle was opening his Boyle Sports bookmaker’s shop in the town’s Francis Street on a Sunday.
He said that this was a criminal offence under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985.
Judge Kevin Finnegan QC was told: “In order to substantiate the intelligence, a number of plain clothed police officers visited the accused’s premises in Francis Street and found they were open.
“They were able to place bets and received betting slips back. They then left the premises and reported back their findings to senior officers.
“As a result, a search was carried out of the premises by uniformed police officers. A whole series of betting slips were seized.
“Police found a substantial amount of betting slips which showed that he had been operating on a Sunday over a period from February 2010 to November 2012.
“From the bets placed it is not possible to give an exact figure of how much was taken in over this period of Sunday trading.
“However, a police ready reckoner of the seized slips estimated that somewhere in the region of £250,000 of bets had been placed over this period,’’ added Mr Chambers.
The court heard Boyle was taken in for interview but made no comment in response to police questions.
Boyle had pleaded guilty in March this year to three counts of illegal Sunday trading on dates between February 2010 and November 2012.
But the court was told that sentencing had been adjourned until Wednesday to resolve issues around a Proceeds of Crime application.
Mr Chambers told Judge Finnegan QC the prosecution were seeking a confiscation order for £100,000 which they say was Boyle’s benefit from the illegal Sunday trading.
A defence QC said Boyle had no previous relevant record for such offences and said he had not come to police attention for further offences since these crimes came to light three years ago.
He added that “although two wrongs don’t make a right’’, the defence counsel said Boyle found himself in the position where people in Northern Ireland could not go into a bookmaker’s shop on a Sunday but “could pick up a tablet and place a bet online at any time of the day or night to companies who could be operating offshore in the likes of the Isle of Man, Gibraltar or even the Cayman Islands’’.
The barrister added that there were amendments to the betting legislation currently before the Stormont Executive but said there appeared to be no sign as yet of Sunday gambling being made legal in Northern Ireland.
“However, we are where we are. As I said two wrongs don’t make a right. Mr Boyle has traded as a bookmaker for 20 years and had never before, or since these offences, come to the attention of the police or any other statutory agencies.’’
Passing sentence, Judge Finnegan QC said he was giving Boyle credit for his guilty pleas which he said had “saved both the court’s time and the public purse as such matters may have been complicated for a jury to understand’’.
He fined Boyle £1,500 on each of the three offences and gave him six months to pay.
The judge agreed to make a Proceeds of Crime Order in the sum of £100,000.
Boyle was told that he had until March 2016 to pay back the six-figure sum which he said was the “benefit of his crimes’’.
“If you don’t pay it back in that time, there is a default period of two years in prison,’’ added the judge.