Clayton assistant jailed for seven years

Sat, Jul 7, 2012, 01:00

THE FORMER personal assistant of U2 member Adam Clayton has been jailed for seven years after she was found guilty by a jury of stealing nearly €3 million from his bank accounts.

Judge Patrick McCartan said Carol Hawkins’s crime “ranks at the higher end of the scale” and the nature of the crime was a “serious breach of trust craftily done over time”. He said it was “a crime rooted in greed and nothing else and whether she was a fool or a clever person that does matter”.

He added: “She is not a neophyte and she does not come without experience as she ran a small hotel.”

He said it was suggested she was entitled to do it because “no one told her to stop” and the money was spent to benefit Clayton. However, he said, defence counsel’s argument was “an absurdity”. He added: “Nothing could explain away the dishonesty other than greed and pursuit of a lavish lifestyle that bore no responsibility of Mr Clayton”.

Ms Hawkins (49), originally from north London but with an address at Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 181 counts of theft from two of Clayton’s Bank of Ireland accounts over a four-year period from 2004 to 2008. The thefts totalled €2,869,274. Det Garda Clodagh White told prosecuting counsel Colm O’Briain gardaí were first alerted to financial irregularities involving Hawkins in November 2009. Following an extensive investigation, it was discovered 181 cheques were written on Clayton’s two accounts – Fitzwilliam and Danesmoate – without the consent or knowledge of the bass guitarist.

“A difference arose between Mr Clayton and his former accountant Gaby Smyth over Mr Smyth’s functions and the net result was there was no monitoring of Hawkins’s access to Mr Clayton’s funds by anyone,” said Det Garda White.

Mr O’Briain said Clayton confirmed in evidence that Hawkins was never entitled to write cheques for her own benefit and that he had provided her with a net salary of €48,000 and free accommodation.

Det Garda White agreed with Mr O’Briain that the only amounts Clayton agreed to cover for Hawkins were about €100,000 for her rent from 2005 to 2009 as construction was in progress at Danesmoate, Clayton’s home.

Det Garda White said Hawkins was arrested on December 22nd, 2009, and detained and interviewed for 24 hours. “She availed of her right to silence and no explanation was forthcoming during her detention,” she said.

Evidence was heard during the 18-day trial that Hawkins started to write cheques from Clayton’s Danesmoate and Fitzwilliam accounts in her name and lodging them into her personal, joint and credit card accounts. She used the money to purchase and maintain 22 thoroughbred racehorses, a €310,000 New York apartment, holidays, educating her children and shopping sprees. She also spent €1.4 million on her credit card which was also funded from Clayton’s accounts.

Defence counsel, Ken Fogarty SC, said his client, who now has a personal debt of €34,000 and two non-dependent children, is homeless but has no underlying medical conditions, no drug addiction and no gambling addiction.

He said Hawkins, who has two A-Levels, fully contested the case, which was an “indication of the belief of her innocence” and “without a doubt she does not accept the jury’s verdict as she felt she had the authority to write the cheques”. “I can’t offer an excuse in respect of the decision she has made in conclusion of the case of overwhelming evidence and anywhere she goes in the world she will be known,” said Mr Fogarty.

Judge McCartan said Hawkins “may come to realise at some stage her wrongdoing”. He ordered that the €191,758 from the proceeds of the sale of Hawkins’s New York apartment be released from Bank of Ireland and paid over to Clayton.

After the sentence was handed down, Judge McCartan said he would extend legal aid in the event of an appeal.