A SHAMED crown prosecutor who fell from grace after stealing more than £5,500 from the CPS has been jailed.

At a hearing at Swindon Magistrates Court this week, Eoin MacCarthy admitted to stealing the funds to help pay off his son’s crippling university debt. The 57-year-old admitted the charge of fraud by false representation after submitting 62 bogus claims for travel expenses, namely a series of journeys from his home address to Bristol Crown Court over a six-month period while working as a prosecutor for the CPS South West.

The court heard MacCarthy, of Ivybridge, Devon, is normally based in Exeter and works in the rape and sexual offences team, dealing with cases from Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Avon And Somerset police forces.

But over six months last year, he falsely claimed £5,780.50 – all of which he was able to self-authorise due to his position in the organisation and the fact that his claims were under £500.

Luke Bulpitt, a Specialist prosecutor with the CPS, told magistrates that it was in October, as part of a review by the areas finances manager into travel expenses, that MacCarthy’s claims were uncovered as he had put in more requests than anyone else – prompting a more in-depth investigation.

It found that between March 30 and October 11, 62 claims were made in respect of 68 journeys.

Suspicions were aroused as MacCarthy did not claim any extra time for the five-hour round trip to Bristol for some journeys and other claims were made when he was in the office, as well as others when he was on holiday. One claim falsely said he had attended a conference.

Mr Bulpitt said: “Sometimes he claimed for meeting someone in the same office.”

“The team work in an open plan office and his line manager was able to tell that he was in the office on the days where claims had been made.”

Random checks were also made in May, when he was asked via email to produce a receipt or proof of payment for a £3.50 car park.

He told the finance department he was unable to as the machine took the ticket back upon exiting.

MacCarthy was subsequently suspended in November and in May this year he was interviewed regarding the allegations. He made a full and frank admission about the fraudulent claims, saying it was after his son got into debt from university that he took out credit cards to sort it.

Mr Bulputt said: “He was unable to pay those credit card debts off and became embroiled with payday loan companies.

“He expressed his remorse and explained he was in more than £20,000 debt with Natwest.

“The fraudulent activity was over a sustained period of time and this offending only ceased once he had been exposed.

“This has clearly had a detrimental impact on the CPS and the reputation of the organisation.”

MacCarthy was entitled to travel expenses as part of his job in ‘official business’ when travelling between CPS offices, court appearances or police stations and training courses.

The rate depends on the purpose of the trip and the number of miles already claimed. Other expenses that can be claimed include car parking.

MacCarthy first joined CPS in 1990 and after a short time in a different role, he rejoined the organisation back in 1998.

Chris Albin, defending, said: “He comes to court knowing that everything he has worked so hard for in his life has gone.

“The loss of his job is inevitable. Then we have the further tribunal with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and he knows he will be struck off and never able to practice law ever again.

“It is a great shame for someone who has been in court himself to prosecute people who have done wrong.

“This has been something that has been a blip in his life.

“It got to the point where he took an idiotic route. He was trying to help his son but the way he did it was completely the wrong thing to do.

“What he should have done in hindsight is tell his wife. Their marriage is now over.

“Mr MacCarthy has every intention of paying back the money he took from the CPS.

“He will find a way but there are other matters he needs to address like his marriage. His wife has become extremely ill from the shock and stress of the situation.

“He is a man who has fallen from grace. He was a person of respect in a highly respected profession. An error of judgement has ruined that.”

The chairman of the bench, Peter Hyson, told MacCarthy that due to the severity of his offending, the matter passed the custody threshold and he imposed a six-month prison sentence.

“We have had to balance the impact that this has had on you and your professional standing, on your reputation in the community with the fact that you were in a position of trust and that position of trust was in the justice system,” he said. “We also recognise there was 62 claims over six months and that total amount was in excess of £5,000.”

MacCarthy was told he must pay £115 towards victim services and due to his time in custody, costs would not apply. He has the right to appeal the sentence.