Top musical director escapes jail sentence

A top musical director, honoured for his work with children, but who fleeced their parents, a charity and an education board of thousands of pounds was allowed to walk free yesterday after paying back over £50,000.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Corine Philpott told 56-year-old Eric William Boyd that jailing him would be “too severe” and instead suspended his three-year prison term for two years.

Boyd from Springwell Crescent, Macosquin, Coleraine, had admitted taking the funds over a two year period up to 2005 while working as musical director for the North Eastern Education and Library Board and for the charity the Association of Friends of the North East Schools Symphony Orchestra.

Charity boss David Foster who “blew the whistle” on Boyd was also charitable in his condemnation of the one time director, who was given an honoury degree by the University of Ulster because of his work.

“I feel sorry for Eric Boyd for being so silly because he has ruined himself,” said Mr Foster.

However, Mr Foster was also glad that he and his staff had been “vindicated” in making the original case against Boyd.

“When you are a whistleblower, you are concerned, worried, have we got it right, but now I, my officers and the charity, all have cleary been vindicated,” said Mr Foster.

Earlier he’d listened as Judge Philpott told Boyd that his one-time substantial reputation in the music world had been destroyed by his own actions, which would also impact on his wife and two sons.

The judge said that Boyd had been honoured for his work and while it might have been said he did a lot of good work in the past, “by his actions he has undone that good”.

However, Judge Philpott said by his guilty pleas Boyd had saved the court considerable time and resources and by voluntarily paying back what he had taken had also progressed the compensation process whereby the Library Board and charity will be reinbursed quicker.

Defence lawyer Gavin Duffy said Boyd had “suffered a considerable fall from grace”, and while references from politicians, colleagues and neighbours spoke of his incredible past industriousness, he had himself “demolished his previous good character”.

“He is certainly the architect of his own misfortune,” added Mr Duffy.

However, the lawyer said while Boyd had shown genuine remorse, regret, shame and embarrassment, over what he did, by making restitution, he was striving, attempting to “undo the consequences of his actions”.

Mr Duffy said for Boyd and his family personally the consequences have been great and will continue to be so, as not only had he lost his reputation, but also the chance of lucrative international music contracts which might have secured their finanical future.

At an earlier hearing prosecuting QC Richard Weir said that while Scottish born Boyd treated education board and charity funds as his own, it was accepted he did use some of the monies for what they were intended, the musical education of youngsters.

He also explained that while on the supposed subsidised youth orchestra trip to Lake Garda, Boyd did take along some cash which he used to buy the youth orchestra lunches and to pay for treats like ice cream.

Mr Weir described Boyd as a man of one-time good character who succumbed to temptation and in so doing not only breached the trust of his education board employers and the charity association but more importantly the “kind hearted people who donated funds”.

The lawyer said Boyd first joined the North Eastern Board in 1977, finally becoming head of music in 1993, while at the same time also becoming a prominent member of the charity group the Assocation of Friends of the Board’s youth orchestra.

Boyd, who was finally suspended from his posts in 2007 after concerns were raised by the charity, operated from two banks accounts which he used to syphon off monies into his own bank account.

Mr Weir said Boyd, in his dual capacity as musical director for the education board and as a member, a leading light and organiser for the charity took the monies “and treated those monies as his own”.