09 Aug 2022

Judge upholds jail sentence on Laois man for stealing widow's pension in Dublin

A man jailed for stealing over €19,000 from a widow’s pension has lost an appeal against the severity of his two-year jail term. 

William Butler, (52), of Ballinakill Road, Abbeyleix told gardaí that temptation had gotten the better of him after the victim, a family friend, had allowed him stay at her home when he was in need.

He admitted obtaining her banking details and stealing €19,380 out of her late husband's pension fund over three months, to spend on gambling. None of the money has been repaid.

Butler pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five sample charges of stealing money from Bank of Ireland, Ballyfermot, Dublin, on dates between November 2013 and January 2014. 

He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended by Judge Karen O’Connor on December 13, 2018, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal. 

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the victim was a widow, whose late husband passed away in 2013. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said the funds were the proceeds of a pension provided by her late husband, and almost half of the pension was taken by Butler. A good deal of the money was then gambled, the judge said.

At some stage, the injured party became aware there was appreciably less in the account than expected and withdrawals had occurred when she wasn’t making withdrawals. 

She contacted Butler, who admitted wrongdoing, and he followed this up with admissions to gardaí. 

On both occasions, Butler said he would be making restitution but he didn’t. To date, there has been no restitution, Mr Justice Birmingham said, and this despite the fact the case was slow to come to court, due to prosecutorial delay. 

Mr Justice Birmingham said Butler was a 52-year-old man with no previous convictions and a previous good character. 

He said the court had been referred to a number of cases where persons of previous good character had become involved in crimes of dishonesty. 

But they mostly involved employees of financial institutions who abused their positions of trust and succumbed to temptation. 

What distinguished this case was the vulnerability of the victim, a widow, the judge said. 

In many of those cases, he said, there had been significant efforts to make restitution. But in this case there had been no restitution whatsoever. 

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Máire Whelan, said it was serious dishonesty committed by someone who had abused the trust and hospitality of a vulnerable victim. 

No error had been identified and the appeal was dismissed. 


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