A pensioner who faked his brother’s will to inherit his £650,000 farm was handed a suspended jail sentence on Wednesday.
orth Antrim man James McClements was due to go on trial for fraud at Antrim Crown Court on Wednesday when the Public Prosecution Service added a seventh charge, accusing the 81-year-old of making or supplying an article for fraud.
The crime was uncovered after a handwriting expert examined his brother John’s purported will.
With the jury in their seats ready to begin the trial, McClements, from the Fairhead Road in Ballycastle, admitted that on April 12, 2017, he created a document “purporting to be the will of John McClements deceased.”
Following the 11th hour dock confession, prosecuting KC Liam McCollum asked for the other charges against James McClements including one of aiding and abetting fraud to be left on the books.
He made the same application for all charges against the co-accused to be left on the books — the defendant’s son James Daniel McClements (36) and 34-year-old daughter-in-law Colleen McClements as well as 43-year-old contractor Ivan Lynn, from the Glenshesk Road in Armoy.
Lynn and Colleen McClements have been accused of fraud by false representation on April 12, 2017 in that they allegedly purported to witness the genuine signature of the deceased John McClements on a will when they had not.
They had also been charged with making or supplying an article to be used in a fraud, namely a document purporting to be the will of John McClements deceased.
The father and son, both from the Fairhead Road in Ballycastle, had been jointly charged with aiding and abetting the alleged fraud by claiming to have witnessed the proper and genuine signature of the deceased John McClements on a will.
Widower John McClements, sadly died on July 13, 2017 and he was a brother and uncle to the other McClements named on the indictment.
The court heard on Wednesday that after his passing, James McClements produced a will dated the preceding April, purportedly signed by his older brother and which left his farm, said to be worth around £650,000, to James McClements with £5,000 to his nieces and nephews.
There was nothing in the estate which was left to the deceased’s older sister but the fraud was discovered when the will was checked and a handwriting expert opined “that it was not genuine”.
Sentencing James McClements, Judge Roseanne McCormick KC said while the offence was aggravated by the breach of trust, the defendant was due credit for pleading guilty.
“All of this was ill judged and all of this was committed against the memory of your brother,” she told the defendant.
Judge McCormick said it was clear the custody threshold has been crossed but given McClements’ plea, health difficulties and record, she would suspended the two-and-a-half year jail sentence for three years.
“I’m told that the plea has come as a relief to the extended family circle who will not have to go through High Court proceedings to make sure that justice will be done and they do not wish to see you jailed,” concluded Judge McCormick.
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