Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 14:00 UK

Historic archive theft man fined

Oliver Fallon
Oliver Fallon admitted his guilt last month

A man who stole valuable historic documents about the origins of the Catholic Church in Scotland has escaped a jail term.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court had earlier heard that Fallon, from London, made five visits to the Scottish Catholic Archives in Edinburgh in July 2006.

He pleaded guilty to ripping out pages and stealing 288 items, worth £26,400.

Sheriff Noel McPartlin ordered Fallon to do 300 hours of community service and pay back £16,000 in compensation.

Fallon, an academic who was teaching at a London school at the time, avoided being locked up when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

It involved the plundering, almost the vandalism, of historic documents
Sheriff Noel McPartlin
Edinburgh Sheriff Court

Sheriff McPartlin said Fallon's crime involved "almost the vandalism" of historic documents.

But he ruled it would have been "oppressive" to impose a custodial sentence after he had already served time in jail for similar offences in England.

Fallon smiled and looked visibly relieved when he walked free from court.

His defence lawyer John Mulholland said afterwards: "He's very ashamed and he's sorry that the archive lost out. He's not going to do it again."

The court heard that Fallon went to the centre in Drummond Place, which holds church records dating back to the 12th century.

Scottish Catholic Archives
Fallon went to the Scottish Catholic Archives in Drummond Place

It is understood that those wishing to enter the reading room must have an interview with staff and are only allowed to take a pencil and notebook in with them.

Archivists realised the married father-of-two had stolen from them when he was arrested for a similar offence in London and told police what he had done.

His lawyer said financial difficulties prompted him to commit the crime.

Passing sentence, Sheriff McPartlin told Fallon he was guilty of a "serious offence".

"It's a theft, of course, that's the charge, but this particular theft is rather more than that," he said.

"It involved the plundering, almost the vandalism, of historic documents."

The sheriff accepted that the offence was "part and parcel of a course of conduct" which involved carrying out similar offences in England, for which he was given a jail term.

Fallon was jailed for two years in London, but was released after about half the time.


SEE ALSO
Thief rips pages from rare books
15 Apr 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Fears over Catholic archive fate
02 May 08 |  Scotland

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