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the Irish for rights

You can’t keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour; and, if you do, you probably won’t be able to get out of jail free

Get Out of Jail Free cardIn the board-game Monopoly, one of the cards that you can get by landing on ‘Chance’ is ‘Get out of jail free‘. If you are sent to jail during the game, you can use the card to ‘escape’ immediately, without having to cool your heels for the three turns otherwise mandated by the rules. It is as about a useful guide for life as the its fellow Monopoly ‘Community Chest’ card, which tells you that you can keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour. Unfortunately, you can’t; and spending it is straightforward theft, as is well illustrated by a story in today’s Irish Independent:

Jail for ‘flabbergasted’ teen who succumbed to temptation after €20k was mistakenly lodged in his account

Karl Smith was due €200

A teenager who had “an incredible temptation presented to him” two days after his 19th birthday when his former employer mistakenly lodged almost €20,000 into account has been jailed for theft.

There is more on this case here, here, here and here. This is not the only time this kind of thing has happened. Here’s a spectacular example from Australia:

Australian student Christine Jiaxin Lee withdraws $4.3 million after bank makes overdraft error

About $1 million has been recovered but the rest was spent on luxury items, police say

A Malaysian student has been charged in a Sydney court with dishonesty offenses after a bank accidentally gave her a $4.6 million Australian ($4.3 million Cdn) overdraft four years ago.

The matter came to light last Summer; Lee appeared in court last month; and the case is still ongoing. Nor is today’s case the only Irish example; here’s another:

Mum went on €25,000 spending spree with the bank’s money, court told

A mum-of-two accused of going on a €25,000 spending spree after a sum of money was mistakenly lodged in her bank account has been sent for trial

The accused … is facing more than 50 charges of theft, relating to stealing in excess of €25,000 in cash belonging to Bank of Ireland, which had been mistakenly lodged to her account. … The thefts are all alleged to have taken place over a two-week period in March 2013. … The money was allegedly withdrawn … from a number of ATMs across west Dublin.

There are earlier stages of this case here, here, here and here, and the case is still ongoing. [Update (29 Jan 2017): she has pleaded guilty to theft, and the matter has been put back for sentencing in April; see here, here, here and here].

All of these defendants would doubtless wish for a “get out of jail free” card, but it is likely to be as useful as the card that says to keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour. When the Australian student was asked why she thought she had access to that much money, she said: “My parents give me lots of money”. The Dublin single mum made no such claims, but the satirical site Waterford Whispers has her say that she thought that Bank Of Ireland were finally paying her back for the Bailout. As for the flabbergasted teen in today’s story, he considered the windfall to be the answer to his prayers and “a gift from God”.

As I have said on this site, a bank error in your favour is not a gift from God; an overactive ATM is not santa, and the scrooge bank will have to be repaid; bank errors are not a licence to gamble; and keeping the proceeds of a bank error in your favour can amount to theft, whether the error is from overpayments or overactive ATMs. The moral is clear – Chance and Community Chest cards are not a useful guide to life, however much fun they are when playing Monopoly.

2 Responses to “You can’t keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour; and, if you do, you probably won’t be able to get out of jail free”

  1. Eoin,

    There was an Australian interviewed on a radio show last week (I think it was Moncrief) who had used over $2 million in credit that his bank had mistakenly approved. At trial he was sentenced to a prison term. But the state supreme court overturned his conviction, as he had not breached the terms of his contract with the bank: the bank had approved the credit. Therefore he had not committed a criminal offence.

    The case is Moore v R [2016] NSWCCA 260 (28 October 2016).

    Regards,

    Killian

  2. Eoin says:

    From TheJournal.ie 25 January 2017:

    Single mother went on ‘massive spending spree’ after €51k accidentally put in her account, court hears

    The Finglas woman told the court, “Any young girl on social welfare like me would have done what I did.”

    A SINGLE MOTHER went on a “massive spending spree” after a bank accidentally deposited €51,000 into her bank account.

    Margaret McDonnell (23) … pleaded guilty to 13 counts of theft of cash from Bank of Ireland on dates between 7 and 16 March, 2013. Between large ATM withdrawals and money spent in shops and restaurants, a total of €24,946 was taken.

    Judge Cormac Quinn adjourned the case to next April and ordered a probation services report to assess McDonnell’s suitability for community service.

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Welcome

Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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