A parish minister has been accused of abusing his position to steal over £10,000 from the church and a hospital grouping.
At Lisburn Magistrates Court on Thursday, 48-year-old Reverend Adrian McLaughlin was charged with six counts of fraud by abuse of position.
Defence solicitor Garrett Greene revealed that while the father-of-two is still being paid £637 a week, "he is on gardening leave".
Rev McLaughlin, with an address at Church Avenue in Dunmurry, faces six charges of fraud by abusing his position - five relating to St Coleman’s Parish Church and one relating to his position with the RVH Liver Group on various dates between 15 October 2016 and 1 October 2018.
While the prosecution did not open any of the alleged facts of the case, the particulars of the offences accuse Rev McLaughlin of: writing out a £10,000 cheque to himself, taking a £1,000 donation for himself; taking £520 from two complainants who had made donations and one who paid to use the church hall.
He is also accused of pocketing donations from a funeral held at the church but intended to go to RVH Liver Unit Group.
That charge states that McLaughlin "having received a sum of cash following a collection of donations for the benefit of the RVH Liver Unit Group at a funeral at St Colman's Parish Church, and having become a constructive trustee of the said monies for the benefit of the RVH Liver Unit Group, you failed to give or declare the said monies to the RVH Liver Unit Group, with the intention, by means of the abuse of that position to make a gain for yourself or another or to cause loss to RVH Liver Unit Group or to expose the said group to a risk of a loss, in breach of section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006, contrary to Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006."
The case against Rev McLaughlin had been scheduled to be elevated to the Crown Court but Mr Greene asked District Judge Rosie Watters to adjourn the case for two weeks as “there are some matters outstanding in the papers" - submitting that legal aid should be granted because "these matters are particularly complex and there’s a risk to his livelihood" if convicted.
Granting legal aid, DJ Watters adjourned the case to 13 October.