Derry Court: Retired priest recieves conditional discharge

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A retired priest who stole £1,700 from church funds has received a conditional discharge.

John Irwin, whose address was given as Garvagh Road, Dungiven, pleaded guilty to theft by an employee and theft.

The offences were committed between December 2009 and October 2012 at St Patrick’s Church Parochial House.

Derry Magistrates Court heard Irwin stole the money after he got into financial difficulty.

Sentencing in the case at Derry Magistrates Court had been deferred for six months to allow the 73-year-old to repay the stolen cash.

Defence solicitor Michael McGee confirmed to the court his client has repaid the money and also paid compensation to the Derry Diocesan Society.

He added that the retired priest, who has no previous convictions, is ‘deeply remorseful’ for his actions.

District Judge Barney McElholm said it is a ‘breach of trust case’ which makes it a serious matter.

However, he said Irwin ‘is a man who has dedicated his life to helping others’ and on this occasion ‘made a mistake’.

The judge said ‘absolutely no purpose would be served by sending this man to prison’ and the most important thing in offences of this type is ‘reparation’.

Judge McElholm imposed a conditional discharge for two years.