A TWENTY-four-year-old Ballina man who drew up a bogus sponsorship card and collected money from the public did so to supplement his alcohol problem, last week’s sitting of Ballina District Court heard.
Martin Lawrence of 156 Greenhills Estate, Ballina was sentenced to 200 hours community service in lieu of six months imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to the offence. Lawrence and another youth were arrested at Bohernasup, Ballina on September 28 last after they fraudulently collected €17 by coaxing the public into believing they were collecting money for a sponsored walk in aid of a local youth club.
Mr Lawrence made up the sponsorship card on a computer in a library and approached people to sponsor him for the apparently worthy cause.
The court heard that of the €188 in unemployment benefit he receives every week, he spends €90 on alcohol and the money collected was to be spent on alcohol.
Judge Mary Devins accused Mr Lawrence of not only defrauding the public but also of defrauding the State by spending so much money on alcohol.
“We all know that alcohol is unfortunately dirt cheap at the moment and yet he says he ran out of money and went out to defraud the public to buy more alcohol. The Department of Social Protection gives him €90 to pour alcohol into his body. He is defrauding the State by drinking the money the State gives him to live on,” she said.
Judge Devins was told that Mr Lawrence has ten previous convictions and in 2009 served two consecutive 28 day sentences for theft and threatening and insulting behaviour.
His solicitor, Mr John Gordon, said his client thought of the idea after taking part in a sponsored walk ‘years ago’ and admitted it was an ‘unsavoury offence’.
He said he put his hands up straight away and that he was afraid of going back to prison.
Mr Gordon asked Judge Devins to allow him to pay off his debt by doing community service instead of going to prison but Judge Devins said that if he drinks €90 a day he may not be suitable.
Mr Lawrence said he will stay sober to stay out of prison while Inspector Joe Doherty said he may deserve another chance even though it was a ‘mean type of crime’.
Judge Devins remanded Mr Lawrence on bail until January 24, 2012 for a community service assessment report and if he is suitable he will carry out 200 hours community service.