1 July 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

A GALWAY MAN who was caught fraudulently collecting money outside a major football match, on the pretence that it was for a charitable cause, was given a 240-hour community service order in lieu of four months in prison.

Shane Sweeney (30) of 7 Castlepark, Ballybane, Galway, pleaded guilty at Monaghan District Court last week to holding a collection without a permit at Largy, Clones, on Saturday 27th June 2015.

Garda Inspector Pat O’Connell said the matter was about an unauthorised collection that was taking place at Jubilee Road (98 Avenue), Clones on the day of an Ulster GAA semi-final.

At 6.55pm on that day, Garda Michael Duffy had stopped the defendant while he was taking up a bucket collection, ostensibly on behalf of Suicide Aware. He was wearing an orange T-shirt with the organisation’s logo written on it.

But when cautioned by the garda and asked if he had a collection permit, Mr Sweeney had admitted that he did not. At this stage he had collected at total of €97.76 and Stg £9.15, the court heard.

Insp O’Connell confirmed that there was no collection permit in place for Suicide Aware in Clones on that particular date, and gardai had determined from subsequent inquiries from the charity that the defendant was not authorised to collect on their behalf.

Mr Sweeney had 49 previous convictions, the inspector noted, one of which was an 18-month prison sentence imposed at Galway Circuit Court on 13th January 2014 for assault causing harm on a person. That sentence had been suspended for 18 months, and the offence now before the court was committed within the last week of the suspension period.

The other convictions related to road traffic offences, burglary and numerous thefts.

Roisin Courtney, solr, said her client actually had volunteered to collect for Suicide Aware on other dates. But it was accepted that he did not have a permit on this occasion and was doing it for his own gain.

He also had a gambling problem, and that was why he was collecting on the day. He was hoping to attend a Cuan Mhuire course in Athy next month to deal with this issue.

Ms Courtney said her client had three children and was receiving €188 per week on social welfare. He had €200 with him in court, which he was offering to the charity to make amends.

Insp O’Connell said gardai had been in contact with the chairperson of Suicide Aware, who had stated that the organisation had no knowledge at all of Mr Sweeney.

In reply to this, Ms Courtney said her information on this matter had been on the basis of an email. In any event, she again stated that it was accepted Mr Sweeney had no permit on this particular day.

Judge Denis McLoughlin told the solicitor that when somebody stood outside a GAA ground, or on the main street of any town, with a charity collection sign, members of the public had to have “absolute confidence” that the person was there legitimately, and not on totally fraudulent grounds where they were collecting money for their own benefit, as was this case with this defendant.

Remarking that he regarded this particular type of crime with “some distaste”, the judge ordered Mr Sweeney to complete 240 hours’ community service, which was to be in lieu of a four-month prison sentence.

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