Footballer avoids criminal conviction for €4,000 dole fraud

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Ian Bermingham was spared a criminal conviction
Ian Bermingham was spared a criminal conviction

A League of Ireland football star has been spared a criminal conviction and a possible jail sentence for fraudulently claiming more than €4,000 in dole payments.

Ian Bermingham, who plays for reigning FAI cup winners St Patrick's Athletic, appeared at Dublin District Court yesterday even though he had been excused from having to attend the proceedings.

The 26-year-old had already pleaded guilty in July to benefit fraud in a prosecution brought by the Department of Social Protection.

The professional footballer has refunded the money and had been told he would avoid a criminal conviction as well as a possible sentence if he gave €250 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.

When the case resumed yesterday, his solicitor Michael French furnished the court with a receipt to show the money had been donated. He told Judge John O'Neill that his client now wanted to “put this ordeal behind him”.

Judge O'Neill struck out the case.

The left-back had pleaded guilty to six counts under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act for concealing the fact he was in employment on dates in 2011, 2012 and 2013 while was obtaining the Jobseeker's Allowance.

Bermingham, of Rossmore Avenue, Ballyfermot, in Dublin, did not address the court.

Prosecution solicitor Edel Haughton had told Judge O'Neill the case “related to working while claiming Jobseeker's Allowance”. She said the total was €4,512 but she confirmed the money has now been repaid in full.

The footballer's solicitor had explained it was a misunderstanding and his client “genuinely believed that, because he was working part-time, he was entitled to the payment”.

The court heard Bermingham was “extremely embarrassed”. In pleas for leniency the judge had been asked to note that Bermingham needed to be able to travel for work and it was not expected he would ever be before a court again.

The dates of the offences stated on the charges are: February, March, July and August in 2012, February and March the following year, and April 27th until May 24th in 2011.

The offence can result in a fine of up to €2,500 and or a six-month sentence.

Judge O'Neill had said he was taking into account the guilty plea, the fact that the money has been repaid and that the defendant occasionally has to travel outside the country.