fraud | 

Orangeman who swindled UUP out of £6k to lose top charity role

Ex-Unionist councillor Desmond ‘Dessie’ Patterson (67) admitted stealing £6,050 from the South Down Association of the UUP

Desmond Patterson

John TonerSunday Life

An Orangeman and ex-UUP councillor who admitted swindling the party out of more than £6,000 is to be stripped of his seat on the board of an environmental charity.

Desmond ‘Dessie’ Patterson (67), a director for the Mourne Heritage Trust, pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud by abuse of position at Downpatrick Crown Court last week.

Following his confession, the trust said: “We will take advice from relevant authorities and would expect that subject to that and appropriate due process being concluded, Desmond will cease to be a board member, and the Charity Commission will be notified accordingly.”

The retired farmer admitted stealing £6,050 from the South Down Association of the UUP between February 27 and October 10, 2017.

Judge Geoffrey Miller KC adjourned the case until next month while probation and medical reports are prepared ahead of sentencing.

Releasing Patterson on bail, the judge told him: “It’s up to you to make sure you are available as and when required by the probation service. I’m sure you will comply with that.

“Clearly with offences of this nature, the custody threshold is passed. I will, however, consider all matters raised on your behalf as to the appropriate sentence.”

When we previously approached Patterson about the theft at his farmhouse in Co Down, he said “no comment” before closing the door.

It is understood that the past master of Castlewellan District Loyal Orange Lodge No.12 is no longer a member of the UUP. The party did not respond to a request for a comment on the case.

Patterson’s Facebook account, which celebrates his family’s association with the Orange Order, includes picture of him at marches. He is also pictured out canvassing for the UUP in 2014 alongside former leader Mike Nesbitt, as well as chatting to the then DUP MLA Jim Wells during the launch of a nearby lodge in 2016.

Patterson was a founding member of the Mourne Heritage Trust in 1997. He also served as its chairman during the period of offending.

Writing in this capacity in 2017, he talked about having oversight of the body’s finances.

He said: “While the availability of funding for our work has ebbed and flowed with the public policy and resource context, we continue to enjoy the support of our founding partners — namely, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, our local council and Tourism NI.

“Attracting additional project funds has also been a constant of our endeavours, and we have filled the role of disbursing funds to businesses and community organisations in the area and delivering our initiatives.

“In this context, I am pleased that after 20 years the Mourne Heritage Trust is in good health and continues to contribute to the wellbeing of our environment, society and economy.”

There is no suggestion of impropriety on the part of Patterson in relation to his role with the trust.

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