Conman ex-priest took cash to Paisley Sheriff Court in bid to dodge jail

A former parish priest who embezzled almost £32,000 from vulnerable residents at a Paisley charity turned up at court with £2,500 in cash because he feared getting locked up.

Kevin Cassidy, 48, preyed on five adults at the MacFarlane Trust residential care facilities in Paisley and Elderslie by fleecing their bank accounts of cash over a five-year period.

Cassidy, who spent six years in the seminary before serving as a priest at three parishes in Paisley, joined the charity in 2001 as a “financial guardian” for the adult residents, who have severe learning disabilities.

Paisley Sheriff Court heard Cassidy turned up for sentencing with £2,500 in bank notes on him, as he feared getting jailed for the “gross breach of trust”.

Defence agent Terry Gallanagh said his client had repaid £15,000, but still owed £14,741.71 to the MacFarlane Trust, and was worried he would be sent to prison.

Mr Gallanagh said: “There was a proposal agreement with the MacFarlane Trust for repayments of the sums embezzled and £15,000 has been paid.

“He has £2,500 with him today.

“The court does not want a compensation order because of the level of sums which are required to be repaid and the time required for repayment.

“The court can be confident he will repay the sums and he has expressed appropriate remorse.

“He knows what he did was entirely unforgivable.

“He will do anything to recompense those who were involved.

“He has a great fear of the prospect of custody for this gross breach of trust.”

Cassidy, of Stock Avenue, Paisley, pleaded guilty to embezzling £31,971 from the MacFarlane Trust between June 25, 2012, and August 2, 2017.

While working as a manager at the trust and responsible for the finances of residents, he embezzled the money from five bank accounts belonging to adults in his care.

The thefts came to light after he used a resident’s bank card while on holiday in Wales to withdraw £200, which triggered an inquiry by his bosses.

He later admitted he had been withdrawing cash from residents’ accounts to pay for his drinking problem.

The court heard Cassidy is now working full time and is earning £19,500 a year and will continue to repay the trust at £500 a month.

Sheriff James Spy told him: “This is a serious matter and my main concern is that the people represented by the trust get their money back.

“You have paid £15,000 and have another £2,500 ready, but that leaves £14,741.71 outstanding.”

He handed Cassidy two-years mandatory supervision as an “alternative to custody” and ordered him to perform 300 hours of unpaid work – the maximum amount – over 15 months.

He also ordered him to repay the trust at £500 a month, adding, “This is a two-year order and that will be the period of custody if you breach the order.”

The McFarlane Trust is a local charity established in 1995, offering support and accommodation for adults with a learning disability across Renfrewshire.

Bill Gorman, chairman of the McFarlane Trust, told the Express that Cassidy’s actions had come as a “huge shock”.

Daily Record – Paisley