Co Down priest given suspended sentence for fraud

Friday 10 May 2013 21.00
Downpatrick Magistrates Court heard Fr Conleth Byrne had acted out of naivety
Downpatrick Magistrates Court heard Fr Conleth Byrne had acted out of naivety

A Catholic priest from Co Down who admitted handing over almost £150,000 to a woman has been given a two-year suspended sentence.

Downpatrick Magistrates' Court heard that the priest, 78 year-old Fr Conleth Byrne, had acted out of naivety.

The court was told Fr Byrne took the money from the church funds in the parish of Loughinisland in County Down, after a woman called to the parochial house claiming she was in dire need of financial help.

Fr Byrne gave the woman £145,000 over a 19-month period.

The retired cleric pleaded guilty to fraud and was given a two-year suspended sentence.

The judge was told there had been no monetary or sexual benefits to Fr Byrne, and it appeared he had acted out of charity, and a high degree of naivety.

Around £45,000 has been repaid and the judge ordered Fr Byrne to repay the outstanding £100,000.