Updated: 03/02/17 : 04:27:31
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Sligo soup kitchen chief had 20 past convictions

TWENTY CONVICTIONS in the past -- including fraud -- that's the operator of Sligo's soup kitchen, which is now shut.

Last week the soup kitchen and related Twist charity shop were closed down by order of Sligo District Court. See link below.

Yesterday, Judge Kevin Kilraine imposed five months jail sentences, suspended, on the operator, Oliver Williams of Loughrea, Co. Galway.

He had pleaded guilty to nine charges related to the Charities Act.

Imposing sentence, Judge Kilraine said Williams has to be ''stopped in his tracks.''

He also imposed a series of conditions on Williams. These include:-

*** That Williams will not engage directly or indirectly in any alleged charitable business for two years;

*** That he will not apply for charitable registration in his own name or anybody else's name. 

Four Visits

Sligo District Court heard evidence of how the Charities Regulator investigator had visited the shop four times.

                  The now closed Twist charity shop on Quay St Sligo (Opposite Town Hall)

Williams last conviction was at Loughrea District Court under the Theft and Fraud Offences Act, when he was given a two-month suspended jail sentence.

He also has convictions for obtaining services by deception and holding collections without a permit.
The investigator employed by the Charities Regulator told the court he visited the Twist charity shop on four occasions and witnessed people making purchases.

No Receipts

He said the money was put in a box under the counter and there was no sign of a cash register, no receipts were issued and the sales were not recorded in a book.

He discovered that the telephone number over the door of both the charity shop and soup kitchen corresponded with Williams Car Care, Loughrea.

Business Closed

This was a business operated by Williams in Loughrea but which has been closed since September last, Sligo District Court heard.

Last week, Judge Kilraine had ordered that Mr Williams hand over any money from the shop to his solicitor Tom MacSharry.

The judge had also ordered that he hand up financial documents, pending further hearing of the case yesterday, Thursday.

Yesterday, it emerged Mr Williams had given the documents to Mr MacSharry.

But he'd given the money, €132.50, to the landlord of the shop premises who was also applying to be a trustee of the charity, said the defendant.

Spelled Unusually

Judge Kevin Kilraine questioned Williams about the application he had submitted to the Charities Regulator for charitable status since last week's court.

He expressed surprise that defendant struggled to name the two people included on the form as trustees.

Barrister Donal Keane, for the Charities Regulator, said the names were in Irish and were spelled unusually.

                               The now closed soup kitchen on High St Sligo

Judge Kilraine said there were a number of worrying aspects to this case.

These included Williams' previous conviction for fraud and he said it was very important that he be stopped in his tracks.

Judge Kilraine said that the entire charity business has come under scrutiny hugely in the past number of years.

Breaches had ranged ''from well meaning and naive to downright criminality,'' said the judge yesterday.

As a result genuine charities have suffered, added Judge Kilraine.

He sentenced Williams to a five-month suspended jail sentence on each count.

                      Oliver Williams arriving at Sligo District Court yesterday. Photo: RTÉ News

The case against Williams was the first ever taken by the Charities Regulator in the Republic.

No Choice

Its CEO John Farrelly said afterwards the case vindicates the need to have a Charities Act in Ireland.
"I have taken this action to protect the public and all properly registered charities," said Mr Farrelly.

"In this case, Mr Williams had never registered this or any of his businesses as charities.

''He was taking money from the public on the basis that he was operating a charity. As Regulator I had no choice but to prosecute."

He added that his office is "mindful of the beneficiaries of the organisation and is working with a local charity to ensure that any necessary support is available to them."

''We will continue to apply the law without fear or favour in order to protect the good work of the thousands of good people in registered charities throughout Ireland" Mr Farrelly stated.

The charges relate to his failure to register the Twist Soup Kitchen and Charity Shop as a charity and the production of an Easter Rising commemoration calendar with a false charity registration number on it.

Link: Sligo Today 27/1/2017