A headmaster who stole €200,000 (£172,600) from his school by axing free meals for poorer pupils could be jailed for his crime.
Finbar Boyle, 39, from Ballyhaise, County Cavan, Ireland, was spared prison when he was sentenced in 2017, however he could now be put behind bars due to an appeal by prosecutors.
The dad-of-four was handed a suspended prison term after spending his school’s money on Spanish golfing trips, weekend city breaks and clothes.
Also known as Fionbar O Baoill, he had even put some of his ill-gotten gains towards his mortgage.
He was head of a primary school for children from disadvantaged communities that received extra state support as a result of its DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) designation.
Boyle could have faced up to a decade behind bars but in March last year, a judge decided to spare him jail because he’d managed to pay back €25,000 (£21,575) and shown “remorse”.
Judge John Aylmer showed leniency after Boyle’s lawyers argued to the court that his “significant fall from grace” was affecting his efforts to find a new job. Now, director of public prosecutions (DPP) Claire Loftus has taken action against the suspended sentence.
Today, DPP lawyers will ask appeal judges to review the case and consider sending him to jail, the Irish Mirror reports.
Boyle, who had no prior convictions, was principal of St Patrick’s National School in Kilnaleck, County Cavan, between 2005 and 2013.
In 2008, he cancelled school meals for kids at the small rural mixed primary, claiming a grant from the Department of Social Protection had been stopped.
In fact, the school was still receiving the grant – and Boyle was keeping the money for himself.
Gardai eventually caught up with him, arresting him in March 2015 following a two-year police probe. It later transpired Boyle had embezzled a total of €204,118 (£176,154) from state and also school funds.
At court, he pleaded guilty to five sample charges – including theft of €73,320 (£63,275) from the Department of Social Protection between November 2009 and February 2011.
One court sitting heard he spent €66,000 (£56,958) on the school credit card alone.
His ill-gotten gains were splashed on golfing trips as well as weekend breaks in London, Dublin and Galway, Cavan Circuit Court heard.
He purchased clothes as well as golf equipment and lessons, it was heard.
And he put some of the cash towards his mortgage and household bills.
However, Judge John Aylmer indicated in 2017 a non-custodial sentence would be “considered” if Boyle could repay €25,000 (£21,575) to the school.”
He said: “I am not going to make any promises, but I am currently minded that it may be open to me to take a non-custodial approach.”
The judge gave him 12 months to cough up – and with the help of family and friends, Boyle raised the cash ahead of his final sentencing hearing in March last year.
During that hearing, the court heard he had endured a bitter divorce and had since suffered a breakdown.
Boyle was on €193-a-week (£166) social welfare and had to travel in order to spend time with his young children, his defence team pleaded.
His lawyers also claimed he’d suffered with “underlying and undiagnosed” psychological issues from a young age.
It was also heard he was living in Ballybofey, County Donegal, and had a new partner with whom he was expecting a child.
Judge Aylmer remarked on the “significant breach of trust” and that the €25,000 (£21,575) paid back was a “fraction” of what was taken.
But he noted Boyle’s many character references and lack of prior convictions – and handed him two-year suspended prison terms on each count.
This morning, three top judges – Court of Appeal president George Birmingham, sitting with Judges Isobel Kennedy and John Edwards – will begin hearing the DPP’s appeal.