17/12/2018

EX USPCA Chief Handed Suspended Sentence

A former chief executive of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA), a prominent animal charity in Northern Ireland, has avoided a prison sentence after being found guilty of fraud.

Stephen Philpott, 55, of Ashgrove Road in Newry was sentenced to nine months suspended for two years at Newry Crown Court on Monday 17 December.

In September, he admitted to abusing his position by obtaining rental payments for an address in Bessbrook, County Armagh, that belonged to the charity.

The offences took place over a seven-year period between January 2007 and November 2014.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told Mr Philpott that he was taking the exceptional course in suspending his nine month jail term for two years given his ill-health.

He added that the defendant had made full restitution "so the USPCA can now, as they should have done, use that money for their proper activities".

Judge Kerr also said while the amount taken was large, "it was accrued over seven years at a relatively modest rate", and the evidence showed his offending "was conducted openly, and ended in 2014, some four years ago".

During the brief hearing, the Judge outlined that Mr Philpott had been involved with the charity for 25 years and during his time as chief executive had been a "high-profile leader".

He accepted that the defendant had at times placed himself at risk in that role by opposing illegal animal sports such as badger baiting.
News Image
Mr Philpott was charged in relation to obtaining the rent but "failed to account for the said payments and failed to bring notice of the said payments to the attention of the USPCA, with the intention, by means of the abuse of that position to make a gain for yourself or another or to cause loss to the USPCA".

The court heard the rental income was £400 per month and the total amount unaccounted for over the offending period was £40,000.

In relation to the conviction, PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson said: "This was a complex investigation by detectives from the PSNI's Economic Crime Unit who worked tirelessly to bring Stephen Philpott to court for his dishonesty. 

"During his time as Chief Executive of the USPCA, Mr Philpott was financially responsible for the estate which included a Bessbrook property which was rented out to a tenant by the charity. Over the course of eight years, Mr Philpott received rental payments amounting to over £40,000 yet this money was never received by the USPCA. In an attempt to cover his tracks Mr Philpott claimed that the money was used to purchase goods and services for the charity but records showed that the items were actually paid for by money from the USPCA's bank account. 

"Despite having responsibility for ensuring the financial wellbeing of the charity, Mr Philpott blatantly abused his position and the trust that was placed in him, deceiving his colleagues in a bid to satisfy his own greed and fraudulently receive large amounts of money. 

"His dishonest behaviour prevented the USPCA from receiving substantial funds; funds which could have been used to prevent cruelty and provide care for abandoned animals. Despite his role as Chief Executive at the time, it is clear that Mr Philpott did not subscribe to the values of the charity and chose to profit significantly at the expense of suffering animals in need of help. 

"We will relentlessly pursue anyone who seeks to abuse a trusted position to commit fraud."



(JG/CM)


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

06 December 2019
£90k Suspected Cannabis Seized In Craigavon
Officers from the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force have seized a significant amount of suspected cannabis amid investigations linked to the South East Antrim UDA. The plants, a mixture of mature plants and seedlings, are valued at around £90,000.
04 July 2016
USPCA Sacks Chief Executive Over Gross Misconduct
Animal charity the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) has sacked its Chief Executive on the grounds of gross misconduct. The charity released a statement which said Mr Stephen Philpott was dismissed following a comprehensive, independent review and disciplinary hearing.
02 December 2019
Relief As £107k Online Scam Foiled
An elderly woman from Co Down has been saved from an online scam worth almost £107,000. Fraudsters struck when the target, aged in her seventies, was searching online for investment opportunities in October. The woman gave her details to what she believed was a genuine company, but was in fact communicating with fraudsters.
31 August 2006
South American monkey seized in Craigavon
A South American tamarin monkey has been seized from a housing estate in County Armagh. Officers from the USPCA were assisted by police in recovering the cotton top tamarin from a private house in the Legahory area of Craigavon.
28 October 2002
USPCA condemns 'appalling' death of four kittens
The USPCA has described the deaths of four kittens which were crushed in a bin lorry as "an act of appalling malice". The four apparently unwanted kittens were crushed to death in the refuse lorry's crusher after they were dumped in a skip in Co Londonderry. However, two kittens were saved thanks to the quick reaction of the refuse collectors.