Thursday, May 06, 2021

Fiona Ferguson and Declan Brennan

A solicitor impacted by the effects of the drug Thalidomide, who fraudulently claimed over €120,000 in social welfare payments, will begin a jail term next week.

Herbert Kilcline (60) told gardaí after the fraud came to light that he felt he was entitled to the payments because he had been excluded from compensatory payments made to victims of birth defects caused by the Thalidomide drug. He has since repaid the money in full.

Kilcline told gardaí: “I admit it was wrong, no matter how aggrieved I felt. It wasn’t the right way to deal with my grievance.”.

Kilcline told gardaí that the deformities suffered to his hands as a result of his mother taking the anti-nausea drug during pregnancy had left him unable to peel vegetables or use a can opener.

Moral culpability

Judge Karen O’Connor said Kilcline’s moral culpability was very high, noting the offending was not motivated by financial pressure or gambling, but by a grievance and an element of greed.

She indicated a three-year sentence with the final one year and three months suspended.

Defence counsel asked Judge O’Connor to defer sentence for one week to allow Kilcline to put his affairs in order. She granted the application and deferred sentencing until this day next week.

Kilcline, of Bessborough Parade, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to obtaining disability allowance on false pretences on dates between 1996 and 2001 and making a gain by deception in relation to social welfare payments on dates between 2004 and 2010.

At the original sentence hearing in 2019, Garda Conor Bresnan told Dean Kelly SC, prosecuting, that after being contacted by social welfare officials in relation to suspected fraud gardai had launched an investigation and Kilcline had cooperated with a search of his home, handing over documentation such as his social service card.

The total amount fraudulently obtained was €129,293 and the entire period of offending taken into account was from 1996 to 2012.

Diagnosis

The court heard that Kilcline had not been put forward previously as a child for the scheme by his parents as the effect on him was relatively minor then and they did not want to stigmatise him.

Kilcline said in 1992 he was officially diagnosed as a victim of Thalidomide, but was told that the state compensation scheme was out of time. He then applied successfully for the mean tested disabled persons maintenance allowance.

He was legitimately granted this payment but failed to inform the department when he began working and when his financial situation changed. The court heard that Kilcline worked as a tutor in Trinity College Dublin and had income from the sale of various properties and from rental income from six flats in the city.

Resentment

He said he felt morally justified in getting the money but accepted he was not entitled to it. He said he felt resentment for not getting compensation and accepted he had withheld information

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said at a previous hearing that his client took the view that because the Thalidomide compensation was not a means tested scheme that he was entitled to the disability allowance regardless of his means.

Judge Karen O’Connor noted the aggravating factors included that the offences occurred over a long period of time, that there was premeditation involved and the loss to the exchequer was considerable.

Property ownership

She noted he was not devoid of means, had been in employment and acquired property.

She noted in mitigation that Kilcline had pleaded guilty, cooperated with the investigation and had been “remarkably forthcoming.” She noted his remorse, shame and that he had been assessed as being at low risk of reoffending. She took into account all the money had been repaid.

The judge noted that he had overcome his limitations but continued to live with the physical, psychological and social consequences of Thalidomide. She said he finds basic daily functions difficult, had become very reclusive and suffers with anxiety and depression.

Judge O’Connor granted an application from The Law Society for transcripts of the sentencing hearing and later noted this may have an impact on his professional future and reputation.

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