Widow of charity chief fined for failing to keep proper accounts

Widow Of Charity Chief Fined For Failing To Keep Proper Accounts
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told on Thursday that the charity received funding totalling €2.03 million between 2010 and 2016.
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Eimear Dodd

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

Patricia Kelly (61) is the widow of the charity's former chief executive, the late Paul Kelly.


Console was set up in 2006 to provide services on a voluntary basis to people who suffered bereavement as a result of suicide.

Mr Kelly and his wife were listed as company directors of the registered charity.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told on Thursday that the charity received funding totalling €2.3 million between 2010 and 2016, the majority from the HSE.

Kelly of Alexandra Manor, Clane, Co Kildare pleaded guilty to one count of failure, other than wilfully, to keep proper books of account as a director of a company, contrary to the Companies Act, 1990, between December 2006 and May 2015.


The court heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was not pursuing other charges against Kelly after accepting a guilty plea on the basis that it was not a "wilful" failure, and as such, she could not be imprisoned for the offence. The maximum fine available to the court for this offence is €10,000.

The court was told that 96 payments - totalling €223,000 – made between 2006 and 2015 were traced by the investigation to accounts controlled by Mr Kelly, which also named his wife as an account holder.

Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, said the “lion's share” of the prosecution was directed against Mr Kelly, and it seemed he was the person controlling the accounts into which payments were made.

He said while Kelly was named on the accounts, there were issues with signatures, and the prosecution was unable to confirm that she was the person who signed certain documents.


Mr Kelly had been facing multiple charges but died by suicide in February 2020, the court heard.

Judge Martin Nolan on Thursday noted the court could not impose a custodial sentence due to the basis on which the plea was entered.

He said, “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."

The judge said 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."


He said Kelly was now living in “straitened circumstances” and imposed a fine of €1,500 with six months to pay. She is also automatically disqualified as a director for five years.

Detective Garda Garry Callinan of the Corporate Enforcement Authority said the charity was obliged to submit reports to the Companies Registration Office (CRO) as well as audited reports to various sources of funding.

The HSE started a national audit of companies which received grants in 2014 and an internal auditor was selected to review Console's company records and accounts in 2015.

It quickly became clear there was a lack of co-operation by Console's directors in the auditing process. This continued until 2016, when the audit was finalised by the HSE, which gave rise to concerns about how the money was dispersed by the charity.


A receiver was later appointed to the charity, and they became aware that certain documents and reports had been moved offsite.

An order was obtained for these records, which included hard drives analysed as part of the investigation.

Det Gda Callinan said an investigation included reviewing tens of thousands of documents.

During the investigation, it became clear that some people were unaware they were listed as directors of the charity and that inaccurate or incorrect accounts were submitted to the CRO. The charity is in liquidation.

Fraudulent invoices paid by the charity were also identified, and the money was traced to personal accounts held by the couple.

Other payments appeared to have been made to legitimate creditors; however, it was found that these were also paid to accounts held by the couple.

Det Gda Callinan agreed with Remy Farrell SC, defending, that the prosecution had intended to charge his client's late husband with the same offences that she faced before the plea was accepted.

It was also agreed that Kelly studied to be a beautician and has no training or expertise in bookkeeping. She is also facing ongoing civil proceedings brought by the liquidator of the charity.

Mr Farrell asked the court to take into account that an “early-ish plea” was entered after the proposal was made by the defence.

He said Kelly has been “living under the shadow of this prosecution for a long time.”

His client is on a widow's pension and is of limited means. He asked the court to impose a “modest or very modest” fine.

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