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GAA star stole almost €30k from barrister to fund online shopping habit

CourtsBy Sunday World
Dinah Loughlin
Dinah Loughlin

A GAA star has been given a suspended sentence for stealing over €28,000 from a barrister to use for online shopping.

Dinah Loughlin (30) stole the money over a five-year period while she was working as a legal secretary for Marguerite Bolger, a senior counsel specialising in employment law.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that during the period, Loughlin undertook transcription work for other barristers. However, she then used Ms Bolger's account to pay a stenography service to complete the work.

Other purchases included online shopping at Asos, River Island and Amazon. She also spent hundreds of euros on 'One for All' gift-cards from an office supply website.

Loughlin, who plays inter-county camogie for Westmeath, has since repaid her former employer with money she and her partner were saving for a wedding. She also sold her car.

Loughlin, of Kilbeggan, Westmeath pleaded guilty to twenty sample counts of theft at The Law Library, Dublin between 2009 and 2014.

The court heard that Ms Bolger has taken a "very benevolent view" of the offending. The barrister only reported the matter to gardai for professional reasons and to ensure it never happened again, prosecuting counsel Anne Rowland SC said.

Judge Melanie Greally said Loughlin had breached the "absolute and implicit" trust of her employer even though she didn't seem to be under any financial pressures at the time. In mitigation, the judge noted Loughlin's previous good character and her repayment of the money.

Judge Greally said that Loughlin was "perilously close" to going to jail. She imposed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years.

Garda Stephen Faulkner said that Ms Bolger trusted Loughlin with her credit cards and account details. The barrister would ask Loughlin to make personal purchases online on her behalf.

Sometimes Loughlin would be allowed use the accounts to make purchases for herself, on the understanding she would repay Ms Bolger.

Ms Bolger had a good relationship with Loughlin and never checked these accounts. However, in 2014 she was alerted to a strange transaction. When she asked her assistant about it, Loughlin assured her it was a mistake.

In August 2014 the barrister noticed another unauthorised payment to Clara's Closet, a clothes website. Loughlin again said it was a mistake but Ms Bolger decided to spend the weekend going through her various card and online accounts.

When the thefts were uncovered, Loughlin was suspended. She claimed she had bought the items unintentionally because she was so used to using Ms Bolger's cards. She resigned a short time later via text message.

Most of the money went on online shopping but some of it was taken directly from the ATM. On one occasion, Ms Bolger gave a €100 cheque to Loughlin's GAA club as a donation. Loughlin later rewrote the cheque figure to €500.

Loughlin also bought CDs, DVDs and an iPod, as well as using Ms Bolger's account to pay for her motor tax. Gda Faulkner said she was very co-operative when arrested. He said that he didn't think she would re-offend.

Defence counsel Oisin Clarke BL said Loughlin, who was named on the Camogie Association's 2014 "Soaring Stars" team, suffered great stress when the theft was uncovered. He said she always knew she was going to get caught.

Counsel said she and her partner were not wealthy and had now "put their lives on hold" to repay Ms Bolger.

Conor Gallagher