Fraudster avoids jail as parents’ farm would suffer

A PROLIFIC fraudster has again avoided prison for his latest offending after a court was told his parents farm would suffer if he wasn’t there to manage it.
Keith Crawford (46) from Kinmeen Road, Derrylin was already under a suspended sentence and going through separate fraud proceedings when he stole cash from his then partner’s bank account.
Between June 2016 and September 2017, he dishonestly used her bank details and presented a cheque which couldn’t be paid due to insufficient funds.
He also presented a cheque for £5000 from a closed account and stole £2500 from the victim.
Crawford initially pleaded not guilty to all allegations, but on the morning a trial was to begin, he accepted a number of charges, while the remainder were not proceeded with.
Dungannon Crown Court heard he was in a relationship with the victim for around three years, during which she noticed money missing from her bank account.
On approaching Crawford, he persuaded her it was a mistake and he would repay the funds.
When the relationship ended, the victim discovered a loss of over £6000, caused by Crawford noting her bank details and fraudulently using them numerous times. He repaid her with a £5000 cheque, but this bounced as the bank account had been closed.
He also sold her vehicle and kept the proceeds.
Judge Brian Sherrard QC noted Crawford being in a relationship with the victim at the time, “Can only be seen as a breach of trust. Perhaps the most damaging aspect, placing the money aside, is the significant impact this had on the victim. Someone they trusted was found to be untrustworthy.”
He described Crawford’s criminal record as “very poor and relevant” including multiple convictions for fraud, dishonesty and theft.
The judge told him, “The only conclusion to be drawn is that for many years of your adult life you appear to have felt free to treat other people’s money as your own. You were also facing trial for fraud offences while defrauding the victim …You have had multiple opportunities by this court and others to mend your ways. It’s highly unusual for this court to give someone in your position another opportunity to prove themselves.”
A pre-sentence report stated Crawford has to some extent dealt with his offending and satisfied a number of debts, although Judge Sherrard found it, “Disappointing you have rationalised your behaviour, hiding behind the context of family illness or other pressures.”
Taking onboard the “compelling difficulties that would arise” should the defendant be jailed, Judge Sherrard imposed a sentence of 18 months, which he agreed to suspend for three years.
Compensation totalling £8600 is to be paid to the victim within 28 days.
Concluding Judge Sherrard told Crawford, “I view this as an exceptional case. While you appear to have changed direction and others may depend heavily upon you, the inevitable end should you come back to court, is prison. If I find you haven’t changed, no amount of special pleading, no amount of feeling for your parents or your farm or anything else will save you from a lengthy, immediate prison term.”

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