Sentence date set for Garda who stole tax disc for his own car
The Garda Commissioner has refused to give a judge an undertaking to spare an officer from facing internal disciplinary proceedings after a court found him guilty of theft.
Tallaght-based Garda Damien Dempsey had been found guilty at Dublin District Court of stealing a motor tax disc from his superior's office and fraudulently using it on his own car.
Judge Hugh O'Donnell has said the tax disc was worthless by the time charges and had compared the possibility of him having to face disciplinary proceedings to “double jeopardy”.
Last Friday he had threatened to throw out the case against the garda who has told the court that he barely had enough money to feed himself.
The 44-year-old officer, who has more than 20 years' service, had admitted not having his '01-reg Lexus car taxed.
However, he had pleaded not guilty to not having motor insurance, fraudulently using the stolen tax disc on his vehicle on April 23 last and theft of the disc between July 12 last year and April 23 this year, but he was found guilty by Judge O'Donnell following a hearing last Monday.
Judge O'Donnell had said the tax disc was worthless and added that there is a facility in An Garda Siochana to bring a disciplinary action against an officer.
He had also that if the case had involved a courier firm and its employee he did not think a prosecution would have been brought.
Last week the judge had threatened to strike out the case if Gda Dempsey is to face disciplinary proceedings following the court prosecution.
He had compared it to “double jeopardy”, and had said it would be “inherently unfair and unjust”, and he had sought an undertaking that the officer would not face disciplinary proceedings.
Today, the case resumed and state solicitor Maire Crowley addressed the court in relation to the issues raised by the judge.
She told Judge O'Donnell that the Garda Commissioner makes the decision on whether disciplinary proceedings are brought and that decision is made after the court case has concluded. The undertaking sought by the judge would not be given, Ms Crowley also said.
In relation to it being “double jeopardy”, a disciplinary tribunal is not to be equated with a court prosecution, the state solicitor argued.
In reply, Judge O'Donnell said he would not strike out the court proceedings but he wanted to time “to consider my position in regards to the issues arising in this case.”
Sentencing was adjourned until November.
Judge O'Donnell had been told the stolen tax disc was meant for an official garda motorcycle and had been kept on file in the office of Sergeant Ronan Lawlor.
But it went missing in July last year and an investigation was launched when it was found last April in a bin at the station.
In an interview with a Garda Inspector, Gda Dempsey admitted that what he had done was wrong and stupid but “theft never entered my head”.
When he realised a Garda inspector was investigating the theft “it it me like a ton of bricks” he said in his interview.
The officer, who has no prior criminal convictions, had worked in the drugs area of community policing in Tallaght, the court heard.
He told Judge O'Donnell that his marriage had broken down three years ago and he was left paying a mortgage and other loans – totalling €2,500 a month – on his own. He has enjoyed being a garda and said he never intended it to be a theft.
He had been unable to get rid of the car and said it was kept parked at all times at the Plaza complex car park in Tallaght.
“Word got out there was going to be spot checks,” he said, before adding “I did not have money for it, barely have the money to feed myself.”
He took the disc from his sergeant's office when the tax ran out on his own car which he claimed he left parked up at all times.
He said he was not “in the right place mentally” and suffered from financial stress and anxiety, and ulcers.
He said he wanted to sell his Lexus, “I bought it in the good times, couldn't get rid of it.”
Defence counsel Miceal O'Connor has pleaded with the judge for leniency and said his client was a man with a future ahead of him and had co-operated with investigation but the prosecution could have serious implications for him.
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