Addiction, Destroys Lives, Money Paid back, No Winners here.

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Ex-principal avoids prison for stealing €93,000 from his school to feed gambling addiction

  7h ago

Aformer school principal who stole more than €90,000 from his former school’s accounts to feed a severe gambling addiction has been given a fully suspended 20-month jail sentence.

Father-of-three Stephen Condon, of The Grange, Raheen, Limerick City, admitted stealing €93,000 from St John the Baptist National School, Garryowen, Co Limerick, where he had been the school’s principal.

The sentencing judge described it as a “spectacular breach of trust”.

The thefts were discovered in 2016 when the school board became suspicious that money was missing and a full audit of the school’s accounts was carried out.

Condon immediately admitted misappropriating the funds to feed his gambling addiction, which had “spiralled out of control”.

The 43-year-old, who was charged with 109 counts of theft totalling €93,000, with each count carrying a maximum 10-year jail sentence, pleaded guilty to 11 sample counts at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court.

He stole the money from the school’s bank and credit union accounts in increments of between €400 and €2,000 between September 2012 and July 2016.

Imposing sentence today, Judge Tom O’Donnell said Condon “abused his position as principal”.

The judge, who confirmed Condon had “resigned as principal”, added: “He let down the school he loved to teach at, as well as his colleagues, students and the whole community.”

Condon, who has been teaching in another school for the past four years, was arrested on January 1, 2021.

“It appeared the reason for the thefts was a severe gambling addiction,” said the judge. “He had also used his family’s savings to feed the addiction. His marriage failed because of it, but following [marriage] counselling, it is back on track.

“No one knew how chronic his addiction had become, and with the help of his family all of the money has been paid back to the school, so there has been no financial loss.”

Judge O’Donnell said that a “long and insightful” report by the probation service highlighted how Condon’s gambling addiction had “completely spiralled out of control”.

Condon carried out the thefts with “premeditation and deviousness”, adding that the thefts were “a spectacular breach of trust by a principal of a school who had access to the school’s accounts”.

The judge said he had to weigh up the aggravating nature of the former principal’s offending against his “early admission of guilt and genuine remorse”.

He also noted Condon’s “fall from grace” and the “expressions of revulsion from society”, as well as “the devastation to his family dynamics because of his actions”.

The judge noted Condon had appeared to have made an “extremely impressive recovery from his addiction, and he is now on the straight and narrow”.

Several testimonials provided to the court in support of Condon described him as a “good”, “decent”, “dedicated family man” who had “admitted serious mistakes and serious breaches of trust”, and who had “taken steps to rehabilitate himself”.

All of the money was paid back to the school by Condon with the help of family members, the court was told.

“It would appear he (Condon) has redeemed himself. Thankfully, the school was not at a loss,” the judge said.

In considering “a headline sentence of two and-a-half years”, the judge said that after he had taken into account all of the factors of the case, the “appropriate sentence” was 20 months, which he fully suspended for a period of 20 months.

Judge O’Donnell said: “Unfortunately, this court has seen the fallout from people’s addictions, whether it is drugs, alcohol or, in this case, gambling, which destroys their lives, and has a catastrophic impact on the lives of those closest to them.”

Condon, who sat in the dock wearing a suit, walked free from the court. He did so with a warning from the judge “to be of good behaviour for the next 20 months” or face the possibility of having his suspended sentence activated.

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