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Widow of Console founder fined over accounting failures


The widow of the late founder of suicide prevention charity Console has been fined €1,500 after she pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to keep the books of account as a director of the company.

Patricia Kelly of Alexandra Manor, Clane, Co Kildare, is the widow of the charity’s former chief executive, the late Paul Kelly.

Mr Kelly had been facing multiple charges in connection with financial irregularities at Console but took his own life in February 2020, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told.

Judge Martin Nolan was told the Director of Public Prosecutions was not pursuing a number of other charges against Kelly after accepting her guilty plea on the basis that it was not a “willful” failure, meaning she could not be imprisoned for the offence.

Judge Nolan said it seemed the State “had its suspicions” on another 28 charges but it came to the conclusion that it could not prove the allegations and adopted the position it would accept the plea.

Console – which offered support for those bereaved by suicide – was placed in liquidation after a number of investigations into financial irregularities at the charity.

Today the court was told it had received more than €2 million in grants, most of which came from the HSE.

Prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe told the court that in 2014 a national audit was carried out by the HSE of all grant recipients but it became apparent very early on that there was a lack of cooperation with the auditing process by the directors of the company who were Paul Kelly and Patricia Kelly.

Mr Costelloe said this persisted until 2016 when an audit was finalised and gave rise to significant concerns about how money had been dispersed in the company.

Detective Garda Gerry Callanan of the Corporate Enforcement Authority agreed with Mr Costelloe that tens of thousands of documents were analysed in an investigation.

A receiver was later appointed and it emerged that some documents had been removed and stored off site.

An order was granted by the High Court to access those documents and investigators established that although they were not supposed to be in receipt of any remuneration, both Patricia Kelly and Paul Kelly had been in receipt of some sort of payments.

Assets were traced and it emerged that fraudulent invoices had been issued where payments were made by the company but the money ended up in personal accounts in the names of Paul and Patricia Kelly.

From 2006 to 2015 a total of €223,000 was lodged into the accounts, the court was told.

It became apparent that the accounts being submitted annually were incorrect, Mr Costelloe said.

Mr Costelloe said the “lion’s share” of the prosecution case had been directed at Paul Kelly and it seemed he was the person controlling the accounts into which payments had been made.

He said while Ms Kelly was named on accounts there were issues about signatures and the prosecution had never been able to establish that Ms Kelly was the person who signed certain documents.

Defence counsel Remy Farrell said the DPP had originally decided to charge Ms Kelly alongside her husband with a range of serious offences including fraud and money laundering.

He said tragically Mr Kelly took his own life in February 2020 and Patricia Kelly was charged a month later.

Since then she had been living under a cloud of those charges, come of which carried the potential for prison terms of up to ten years in jail.

He said there were ongoing civil proceedings by the liquidator against her.

Mr Farrell said Ms Kelly was educated to Leaving Cert level and had trained as a beauty therapist and had no training in book keeping.

He said his client was of limited means with only a widow’s pension and a fuel allowance. While she owned her own home she was being pursued by the liquidators, he said.

Judge Martin Nolan said he had looked through the 28 charges that the State was not pursuing.

“It seems while the state may have its suspicions, at a certain point it came to the conclusion it could not prove the allegations so it adopted a position in that it accepted a plea,” he said.

The judge said he was prevented from imposing a custodial sentence on the basis of the plea entered and the maximum fine was €10,000.

He said while the investigation took “hundreds or thousands of hours and liquidators were involved and it seemed like a lot of money and the main person they were interested in is no longer with us.”

The judge said Ms Kelly was living in “straitened circumstances” so he would impose a fine of €1,500 with six months to pay.


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