Caravan park embezzler jailed for three years

Cupar Sheriff Court.

Cupar Sheriff Court.

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A MAN has been jailed for three years after embezzling more than £60,000 from Clayton Caravan Park near Dairsie.

Kevin O’Neill (63), who was manager of the site at the time, was sentenced at Cupar Sheriff Court yesterday (Thursday, August 2).

He had earlier been found guilty by a jury of embezzling £62,548 from the business between June 2008 and March 2010.

O’Neill, of 7 Shepherd Street, Kirkcaldy, was convicted of 13 charges involving sums of up to £12,000.

The court heard during the two-week trial that O’Neill’s £63,000-a-year duties involved selling caravans, running the park, dealing with customers’ problems and organising maintenance staff.

But park co-owner Dorothy Kennedy told the court that money from caravan sales and site fees had been unaccounted for on a number of occasions.

A joint minute of agreement between prosecution and defence detailed instances when it was accepted that O’Neill was given sums of cash which had not been entered in the day book of the business.

But O’Neill claimed he had an agreement with park co-owner Colin Kennedy where he would be given “backhanders” for accepting cash payments.

O’Neill alleged that he had carried out false transactions on the instructions of Mr Kennedy — and he said he had covered up his boss’ attempts to “cook the books” because he loved his job.

But the 15-person jury found O’Neill guilty of all but one of the embezzlement charges he was facing and declined to implicate Mr Kennedy when returning their verdicts.

In mitigation, O’Neill’s defence solicitor Caroline McCallum presented letters from character witnesses and spoke of her client’s charity work.

But Sheriff Charles Macnair suggested it was O’Neill’s “personable” quality that had allowed him to commit the offences.

Sentencing, Sheriff Macnair said: “I have to sentence you on the basis of the jury’s findings, and that is the embezzlement was primarily down to you and that there was no involvement with either of the partners, Mr and Mrs Kennedy.

“Having regard to the jury’s findings, the history of this is that you were employed by the caravan park and you were trusted fully by both partners, and on that basis they appointed you their general manager, and they began to take a back seat.

“You abused that trust by embezzling sums of money.

“It appears to me you were effectively caught as a result of a tightening of systems by Mr Kennedy’s son [Andrew].”