Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Former USPCA chief to be sentenced today

The ex-Chief Executive of the USPCA, Stephen Philpott, will discover today (Monday) if he will be jailed for using his position to defraud the animal charity over a seven year period.

Mr Philpott, originally from Ashgrove Road, but now with an address of The Manse in Newry, appeared at Newry Crown Court on Friday, where Judge Gordon Kerr QC, told the 55 year old that, given the public interest in the case he wanted to prepare a written judgement. 

In September Philpott entered a guilty plea to the fraud charge as his trial was about to commence in Newry Crown Court.  The jury of five men and seven women had already been sworn in when, after an adjournment before the start of his trial,  the former USPCA boss was re-arraigned on the third count of the indictment, with two other charges ‘left on the books’ and not proceeded with.

Philpott admitted to abusing his position by obtaining rental payments for a USPCA-owned property in Bessbrook and failing “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 or to expose the USPCA to a risk of a loss”.  The charge relates to a seven year period from January 2007 to November 2014.

Prosecution QC Liam McCollum revealed that while working for the USPCA, Philpott had received £40,000 in rental fees from the Bessbrook property, which were paid to him in cash.  The prosecution barrister also revealed that since entering his guilty plea, he had repaid the money.

Philpott’s fraudulent activities were discovered when he requested a rental contract be drawn up for the property. A subsequent investigation uncovered no record of the rental monies being received by the charity.

The prosecution said the £400 per month rental payments “simply disappeared” after either being paid in cash directly to Philpott or left in the USPCA offices in an envelope marked for his attention.

Following his arrest, the former Chief Executive claimed he had used the cash for day to day expenses or to pay for casual labour, or intelligence resources – but again no record of these transactions could be found.

Defence QC James Gallagher said that as a consequence of Mr Philpott’s “failings”, he had lost his job and his self-esteem “ which has impacted on  his mental well being.”  He also told the court the 55 year old is facing major surgery later this week.

Alluding to references received by the court, the defence lawyer said they showed a man who “worked tirelessly in the interests of the charity …. often involving dangerous investigations … badger baiting … dog fighting”.  He said such work had prompted “very severe threats …. from criminal gangs who took exception to his investigations”.

Mr Philpott will be sentenced at Newry Crown Court today, Monday 17th December.