Former USPCA chief pleads guilty to defrauding the charity

Stephen Philpott, 55, of Newry, has admitted dishonestly obtaining money from the animal welfare charity for eight years

The former chief executive of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has pleaded guilty to defrauding the charity for almost eight years.

The charity sacked Stephen Philpott, 55, of Newry, Northern Ireland, for gross misconduct in July 2016 and he was arrested the following September.

Yesterday, as his trial at Newry Crown Court was due to begin, he pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by abuse of position, admitting that between January 2007 and November 2014 he had dishonestly obtained money due to the charity for rent on one of its properties, but was unable to account for where the money went, according to the Northern Ireland Court Service.

He admitted that he had used his position at the head of the charity "to make a gain for himself or another or to cause loss to the USPCA", the court service said.

Two other charges, of criminal damage and theft, were set aside and left on the books after his guilty plea for the fraud charge.

Helen Wilson, chair of the USPCA, said in a statement that Philpott’s guilty plea "fully justifies the trustees’ actions" in suspending, investigating and dismissing him.

She said: "These matters were uncovered as a result of actions taken by the trustees to strengthen governance oversight within the charity.

"It is with some sorrow, more than anger, that our concerns have proved to be justified."

She said: "On becoming aware of suspected financial irregularities, the USPCA board of trustees initiated an internal investigation and, being satisfied that there was a case to answer, passed the information to the Police Service of Northern Ireland."

She said the board wanted to thank the investigating officer, Robert McAllen of the PSNI, "for his diligence in leading the police investigation and securing a successful prosecution".

She assured members and the public that the charity had remained fully focused on its objectives and looked forward to "a positive future under new leadership".

Philpott has been released on bail and will be sentenced on 20 December.

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