A 25-YEAR-OLD man accused of filing false mileage claims when he worked as a policeman in Enniskillen has alleged that he and other colleagues regularly slept on duty during night shift, Fermanagh Magistrates Court has heard.
Steven Anthony Mulvenna, with an address in Lurgan, is charged with 13 counts of fraud by false representation.
The offences, which the defendant strenuously denies, are alleged to have occurred between May 1, 2013 and October 6, 2013, when he was based at Enniskillen PSNI station.
Prosecuting counsel Robin Steer has alleged on behalf of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that the defendant claimed for travel expenses he was not entitled to.
Mr Steer said this was on the basis that either the defendant did not make the trip on the day in question or he wasn’t entitled to travel expenses as it was a normal working day, rather than a rest day.
Taking to the stand on the third day of the contested hearing, Mulvenna, who said he had no criminal record, strongly rejected the prosecution allegations.
He confirmed that at the time of the alleged offending he had been living at his family home in Lurgan, but also had rented accommodation in the Enniskillen area.
Referring to each of the claims, The defendant said he honestly believed he had been entitled to make “each and every one” of the claims. He said that he didn’t “deliberately defraud” his employer.
During cross-examination of the witness, the prosecution barrister noted that, if the defendant’s claims were true, then on certain days he had driven home to Lurgan after his shift had finished in Enniskillen, only to spend an hour or two there before returning for his next shift.
Referring to a specific example, Mr Steer said that the defendant had worked until 1am on May 13, 2013 and was then due to start his next shift at 8pm.
The barrister said that, according to the claims submitted by Mulvenna, he had driven to Lurgan and back again between the two shifts.
However, Mr Steer said that cell site analysis of the defendant’s mobile phone revealed that he had sent a text message from the Enniskillen area shortly after 10am on May 13.
Mr Steer pressed the defendant on why he went back to the Enniskillen area at that early time if he was not working until much later on.
Mulvenna replied that he could have been doing a number of things, like going to the gym, playing squash, playing the Xbox or watching TV.
However, when the barrister further asked when he would have slept, the defendant told the court that constables based in Enniskillen would have regularly taken turns to sleep in the station while on night shift.
He alleged that it was not just himself, but also “other colleagues as well”.
When the prosecutor inquired why he had not mentioned this during his interview, Mulvenna replied that he had not been asked what officers did on the night shift.
The defendant told the court that, on night duty, there would have been eight officers in his section, who were divided into crews of two.
These crews were then assigned to calls as they were received during the course of the shift.
After Mr Steer asked if it would be possible for one crew to sleep for the whole night if they weren’t called, Mulvenna replied: “Yes.”
Requesting the defendant to give the names of those who had been sleeping, the barrister added: “Should I make inquiries with the station sergeant?”
“That’s outside my control,” the defendant admitted. He then asked district judge Nigel Broderick whether he should name names.
The judge observed that it might not be appropriate for this inquiry, but it was something that could be followed up.
Later on, as the cross-examination continued, Mulvenna further alleged that sleeping on duty had also occurred at Lisnaskea Police Station, which he described as quieter than Enniskillen.
The barrister also pressed the defendant on the outgoing calls made on his mobile phone. He said that cell site analysis of his phone showed that it was being used “overwhelmingly” in the Enniskillen area.
Mulvenna agreed that it was “broadly” being used in the Enniskillen area. He later told the court that, on occasion, he may have left his phone in the station or at the house he rented in the Enniskillen area.
When asked by defence counsel, Mark Farrell, why he would have driven back to Lurgan for such “short periods,” Mulvenna replied that it was to spend time with his family.
The defendant had earlier told the court that he had joined the PSNI in November 2009, but couldn’t recall receiving any training in mileage expenses before he was stationed in Enniskillen at the start of April 2010.
He said that he had initially resided at his family home in Lurgan before deciding to take temporary accommodation in the Enniskillen area in May or June 2013.
The defendant said told the court that there had been “no set pattern” to his hours of work and sometimes he had stayed in Enniskillen, while on other occasions he had went back to Lurgan.
He later told the court that part of the reason that he was no longer a serving police officer was that he had not been enjoying the “varied” and unsocial hours that he had been working.
Observing that there had been three days of evidence in the case, district judge, Nigel Broderick, told the court that he would like time to reflect before deciding on whether or not to convict the defendant.
He adjourned the case until Wednesday, December 9.