‘Life has punished him enough’: Man given suspended sentence for failure to declare €160,000 in VAT

Judge told James Wauchope (75) suffers from severe PTSD after being locked in truck with bomb by IRA

A milk collection haulier who failed to declare over €160,000 in VAT to the Revenue Commissioners a decade ago has been given a suspended sentence on the basis that “life has punished him enough”.

James Wauchope (75) suffers from severe PTSD after he was targeted by the IRA some years ago and locked in one of his trucks with a bomb before gardaí arrived on the scene, defence counsel told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Wauchope, of Strabane Road, Castlederg, Co Tyrone, pleaded guilty to six sample counts of failing to remit VAT and failing to remit VAT returns to the collector-general on dates between September 2012 and February 2015. He has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence on Wednesday, Judge Martin Nolan set a headline sentence of five years and said what Wauchope had done was “reprehensible”.


“Everyone has to pay their taxes. The loss to the State is very large, about €120,000 to €130,000,” said the judge, noting that the court had to set deterrents against future tax fraud.

However, he agreed with counsel that Wauchope had suffered “plenty of punishment” in life, including not only his experience at the hands of the IRA, but the tragic death of his son.

The court heard that one of Wauchope’s eight children was in a catastrophic road incident in 1986, which left him requiring round-the-clock care until his death in 2022.

Judge Nolan said the “extenuating circumstances” of Wauchope’s past horrendous experiences were “over and above what most people have had to endure”.

“Life has punished you enough,” said the judge, handing Wauchope a 3½ year fully suspended sentence, during which period he must be of good behaviour.

Wauchope was also ordered to repay the sum of €65,000 to Revenue within a year, on top of the sum of €60,000 which he has already repaid.

At a hearing earlier this week, prosecuting counsel Gráinne O’Neill BL said Wauchope had been a self-employed milk collection haulier working for Donegal Creameries at the time of the offences.

The court heard Wauchope was audited by UK Revenue in 2017 and told them that he paid VAT to the Irish Revenue Commissioners. This was accepted by the UK authorities, who then referred the case to the Revenue Commissioners. An investigation was commenced in 2018.

The court heard Wauchope was paid €1.3 million during the period in question. It was the State’s case that he failed to pay €160,369 in VAT. After attempts to interview Wauchope failed, a European Arrest Warrant was issued last March.

Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said his client’s accountant had calculated that the amount of VAT owed by Wauchope was closer to €90,000. He provided documentation to the court from his client’s GP, who said Wauchope suffers from the worst case of PTSD the doctor had ever seen.

Wauchope’s son, Stephen Wauchope took the stand and told the court that the family was living in Donegal years ago when his father was locked in one of his trucks with a bomb by the IRA. Gardaí arrived at the scene in time to rescue him, the court heard.

This incident had a “severe” effect on him, defence counsel said.

Mr O’Higgins said his client was not living the high life, but was an otherwise exemplary person who worked all of the hours he could to run his business. He said the two incidents in his client’s life – the IRA and his son’s car crash – had “significant and catastrophic effects” on him.

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