Northern Ireland

Graham Keys: Solicitor who stole almost £1m handed jail term

Laganside Courts in Belfast
Image caption The case was heard at Belfast Crown Court

A 64-year-old solicitor who stole almost a million pounds from his firm and its clients has been jailed.

Graham Keys, from Lurgan Road in Glenavy, had pleaded guilty to the thefts.

These spanned a period of almost 10 years up to 2015.

The court heard he had stolen the money to finance an almost obsessive interest in horse racing and thoroughbred horse ownership.

He will serve two years and three months in prison and the same period again on licence.

Graham Keys had been confronted by colleagues at Diamond Heron in August 2015, after a cheque was lodged from the firm's client account into his personal one.

The judge Neil Rafferty said it had been a "somewhat odd mistake" for someone with Keys' knowledge of legal practice.

'Went into overdrive'

Belfast Crown Court heard Keys had used the money he stole to gain entry into a social life, status and standing in a particular society he desired.

His offending, said the judge, was already well advanced when his wife died in 2010, at which point, he said, it went "into overdrive".

The judge said it was to the credit of the firm that no jobs had been lost and he praised the professionalism and integrity of Diamond Heron.

But, he said, Keys had carried out "a systematic siphoning-off of monies" that had eroded trust and public confidence.