Print Industry News: manager at Quinns the Printer jailed over fraud; Southern Print site auctioned; and Rule of Six slammed for hitting High Street printers

Print Industry News: manager at Quinns the Printer jailed over fraud; Southern Print site auctioned; and Rule of Six slammed for hitting High Street printers

Followers of the goings on at Quinns the Printers of Northern Ireland will have guessed all was not right at the print outfit for some time. Last year there was confusion over the firm’s potential liquidation, new owners, workers made redundant without compensation and allegations of fraud. Now a court case has laid bare some of the irregularities.

Jail for sales manager

Print Week have reported on the jailing of a former sales manager at the troubled Northern Irish firm last week.

They had previously revealed that a police investigation was underway into an alleged fraud perpetrated at Belfast print firm The case finally came to the Belfast Crown Court this month when former Quinns sales manager Sean Patrick O’Neill appeared by videolink and admitted three offences – fraud by abuse of position and two counts of fraud by false representation.  

Print Week said: “O’Neill began his employment at the trade printer as a salesman in 2015, and was subsequently promoted to sales manager. In this role, O'Neill’s responsibilities included vetting new customers and setting up lines of credit."

The trade publication reported that Judge David McFarland said O'Neill then “entered into an arrangement with another party to create false customers”, and that as part of his offending O'Neill would allocate money paid for genuine services to these false customers, which he then retained.

They said: “The court heard that the loss to Quinns amounted to between £122,000 and £154,000. The Bradley Group restructured its Northern Ireland operations Quinns and Nicholson & Bass in the summer of 2019, with managing director Peter Bradley subsequently stating that the damage to the firm’s cashflow caused by the fraud was “so significant” that the drastic restructure was the only way to preserve jobs.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said this was a classic case of someone with addictions to drugs and gambling as mentioned by the judge had caused workers to lose their jobs and suppliers to go unpaid. “It’s just as bad as a really serious bad debt but worse as it could have been avoided. Allowing a member of staff to be put in a position of trust which they abused suggests something was not right in the way the firm audited its accounts. If £100,000 went missing in most firms the red lights would start flashing in the accounts department.”

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How the mighty fall

Wind back a few years and Southernprint were one of the powerhouses of the print industry producing millions of magazines and assorted brochures every year. Since then the firm has been contracting along with much of the high volume print sheet fed industry with their Upton Industrial Estate site now empty.

Dorset Biz has reported that the 4.5 acre former site in Upton near Poole in Dorset is up for auction this month with a guide price of £3.25m.

The business publication said: “Units 17, 19 and 21 on the Upton Industrial Estate were the home of Southernprint until the end of last year when it closed with the loss of 179 jobs. The three substantial industrial units comprise nearly 115,000 sq ft of space with adjoining office accommodation. They are being sold freehold at the Acuitus auction on September 23 with vacant possession and the potential for refurbishment or redevelopment."

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said it was a sad day for the industry as the giants of print production were downsizing, merging with rivals or going out of business. “At one stage 300 people worked there in the golden age of printing after the war and before the internet with Exchange & Mart published for more than 50 years. I feel we have lost a great deal with the advent of the internet and the print industry is poorer for it," he remarked.

Parent company Walstead acquired Southernprint from Newsquest Media Group, publisher of the Bournemouth Daily Echo and the Dorset Echo, in July 2009. Last year Walstead announced the closure of the web offset site, blaming declining magazine volumes.

Rule of Six hit for six

Print Business has published an article by Nigel Toplis of the Bardon Group who operate a string of franchises. He said the Government's latest rule over The Rule of Six ‘is poorly thought out with substantial implications for smaller printers.’

He said: “The new rules, introduced last Monday, represent 'another nail in the coffin for the print industry'. As usual we have MPs with no experience of running a business who come up with new rules, regulations and restrictions without any consideration for businesses.”

Print Business said the new rules forbid any social interaction for more than six people, putting paid to informal gatherings in pubs, for stag or hen parties, weddings, birthdays and other social gatherings, even scorecards for weekend model aircraft flying clubs. All generate the sort of print that is ‘meat and drink to high street print shops’ at the point that they were beginning to recover from the March lockdown.

Topless said: “Does this government want to regenerate the economy or are they prepared to have 3 million unemployed by January? Do they understand that without a trading, growing and robust private sector there is no money to pay for public sector services? Are they deliberately trying to castrate the enterprise mentality in this country?”

Ian Carrotte was equally scathing. He said the Government had lost touch with the business community with its handling of the Covid 19 crisis and needed to listen to industry.

About ICSM Credit

ICSM Credit has more than four decades of experience as a credit intelligence group whose members gain inside information about firms in trouble allowing them to avoid bad debts and rogue traders. To join costs less than a tank of fuel - while at the moment there's a special free temporary membership offer during the Covid-19 crisis which gives access to free legal letters. ICSM also has an effective debt collecting service which has a global reach - ask for details from Paul.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website or email Ian at on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

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