Accused ‘too ill’ for Sick Kids fraud trial

Elaine McGonigle: Is alleged to have falsely claimed expenses. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Elaine McGonigle: Is alleged to have falsely claimed expenses. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THE fraud trial of a former director of a children’s hospital fund-raising campaign has been delayed until next year while she recovers from a stroke.

Elaine McGonigle, who ran the New Pyjamas initiative, set up to raise £15 million for the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, denies wrongly claiming £1,855 in expenses over 18 months.

A sheriff heard yesterday that she was not well enough to appear before the court and refused a bid by prosecutors to continue the trial in her absence.

McGonigle, 51, from Errol in Perthshire, was suspended by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in 2010 amid concerns about the amount of money that was being raised.

In January 2011, police began an inquiry into the working of the charity and on 8 July that year, McGonigle was charged with fraud relating to her expenses.

She appeared in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on petition in August 2011 and the case was later reduced to a summary complaint in 2012, when McGonigle pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of claiming fraudulent expenses between 22 September, 2008, and 5 March, 2010.

After numerous hearings, adjournments and changes in solicitors, her trial began on 2 June, 2014.

McGonigle is alleged to have fraudulently charged for food, travel and accommodation in meeting with people in order to raise funds for the charity.

The Crown allege that she had not met with the persons she claimed to have and had charged for flights to London on business when she used the bookings for holidays.

Witnesses that she claimed expenses for meeting included the former First Minister Jack McConnell, businessman Nick Kuenssberg, Donald McDonald, head of the McDonald Hotel Group, Vera Weisfeld of the What Everyone Wants group, and multi-millionaire Ann Gloag.

All of them denied having met McGonigle when she claimed they had.

The trial before Sheriff Douglas Allan was interrupted on a number of occasions due to McGonigle suffering from migraine and finally a stroke.

At yesterday’s hearing, defence solicitor Gary Foulis told the sheriff her specialist had said there had been very little change in her condition and that she was not fit to take part in the proceedings.

The specialist said that, in his opinion, McGonigle would suffer long-term difficulties and the risk of another stroke.

Sheriff Allan ruled that another hearing should take place in February next year.