A former financial administer who stole over £130,000 from two west Belfast charities to fund her online gambling addiction was starting a six-month jail sentence today (Friday).
Ann Marie Daye, from Summerhill Gardens in the city, was told that her actions had a “significant impact” on the charities she stole from which work to support vulnerable people in the community.
The 50-year old was handed an 18-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court after she admitted stealing £95,632.50 from Lenadoon Community Forum and a further £38,170 from Lenadoon Women’s Group over a four-and-a-half year period.
The offending occurred over a period from around May 2009 to August 2013, and amounted to the theft of £133,802.50
The court heard that as a result of her actions, a counselling service offered by the Forum “almost had to close down” and is now endeavouring to get “back on track.”
Judge David McFarland told Daye she will spend six months in custody, followed by 12 months on supervised licence upon her release.
Passing sentence, the Judge spoke of the “essential work” undertaken by the two charities and said: “They have suffered a major financial consequence as a result of these thefts.”
Prior to sentencing, Judge McFarland was told that concerns were raised by both charities in the summer of 2013.
Daye, the court heard, was employed as the financial administrator of the Forum from November 2006, and her position including book-keeping and paying wages.
A prosecutor said that when the charities were writing cheques, they had to be signed by two directors. Day would produce cheques to be signed, and would put the names of part time staff or counsellors used by the charity on the stub - which appears to be legitimate.
The cheques would then be signed - but she would then make the cheques out to either herself or other family members before lodging them into her bank account.
The prosecutor said a “substantial amount of cheques were made out to herself or other people connected to her over a number of years.”
When she was arrested and interviewed on August 22nd, 2013 Daye confirmed her position in the charity before confessing to the theft. She told police she has started taking money to fund a gambling addiction, and also spoke of other stresses in her life.
The prosecutor said that whilst Daye came before the court with no criminal record, none of the money has been recovered and there was no prospect that this position will change. He also spoke of the “significiant impact” the breach of trust had had on the two charities.
Defence barrister Joe Brolly spoke of the “widespread problem” of addiction in society, saying Daye suffered from an addiction to online gambling and was now seeking treatment for it.
Mr Brolly said Day came from a family who have never been in trouble before, but revealed that several incidents that occurred in her life have led to stresses and difficulties.
The barrister also spoke of the “great shame” felt by Daye, saying it was never her intention to hurt anyone. He told the court: “Im August 2013 she wrote an open letter to all the staff at Lenadoon Community Forum, admitting that she had been taking money for several years, setting out what she had done and apologising.”
Mr Brolly also revealed that when her offending came to light, Daye was relieved but also devastated.
He also told the court his client is “now broke”, adding she has not offended in the intervening three years from her arrest to today’s sentencing.
Sending Daye to jail, she was told by Judge McFarland that she had committed a grave breach of trust.
The Judge also told Daye that due to her role as financial administrator “you would have been aware of the role they were providing in the community. Buy stealing from them, you were aware you were creating difficulties for the groups and potentially restricting activities they could undertake with vulnerable people in the Lenadoon area.”