A 33-year-old events organiser has been jailed for five years for stealing more than €200,000 in deposits for debs and graduation balls from students of 26 schools in Cork.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told that Patrick Browne, with an address at Inchirahilly in Crookstown, used the money to feed his gambling addiction.

Patrick Browne wept as he heard his actions described in court by Judge Sean O'Donnabhain as 'particularly mean and offensive'. He said Browne had taken monies from young people at a vulnerable time in their lives in a planned and determined way.

Browne was before Cork Circuit Criminal court for sentencing today, having pleaded guilty to 35 sample charges of theft.

The court was told that Browne had organised debs and graduation functions for a number of years without any problems.

Between May 2006 and June 2007, he collected over €200,000 from students from 26 schools in the city and county - over 3,000 students in all were expected to attend dances that autumn.

But in June 2007 it emerged, following enquiries to two city hotels by parents, that Browne had never paid the deposits or even booked the dates. He has never paid back any of the money.

His defence counsel told the court that he is deeply ashamed of himself but until he has dealt with his gambling addiction his life will continue to spiral out of control.

Judge O'Donnabhain accepted Browne had pleaded guilty but to take €200,000 from the ‘youth of the city’ and spend it on gambling is hardly an excuse.

He sentenced him to five years in prison with no leave for appeal.