A garda who admitted using a motor tax disc – which had gone missing from his station – on his own car, had theft and fraud charges dismissed by a judge today.
However, the cash-strapped 44-year-old officer, who appeared at Dublin District Court received a €500 fine for a less serious offence of not having his car taxed.
Tallaght-based Garda Damien Dempsey had been found guilty by Judge Hugh O'Donnell earlier of stealing a motor tax disc from his superior's office, fraudulently using it on his own car and not having motor insurance.
Judge O'Donnell had already said that the tax disc was worthless by the time charges were brought and he had compared the possibility of Gda Dempsey having to face internal disciplinary proceedings to “double jeopardy”.
He had failed to get an undertaking from gardaí that the officer would not face disciplinary proceedings following the case.
Today, defence counsel Miceal O Connor told Judge O'Donnell that Gda Dempsey could lose his job.
Finalising the case, Judge O'Donnell fined the officer for not having his car taxed and a charge for non display of a tax disc was taken into consideration.
He decided to dismiss the officer's remaining charges for fraudulent use of a tax disc, theft and not having his car insured.
The judge held that in relation to theft there was no evidence that Gda Dempsey had intended to permanently deprive anyone of the tax disc and he also said that there was no evidence of a demand being made for him to produce his insurance certificate.
The 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 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 had been found guilty by Judge O'Donnell following a hearing on September 30 last.
At a subsequent hearing, Judge O'Donnell had said it would be “inherently unfair and unjust”, if the officer were to face internal disciplinary proceedings and had compared that to “double jeopardy” but today he said he would make no further comment.
Judge O'Donnell had been told the 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 had 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 had 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 his 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 had 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.
The officer had said he wanted to sell his Lexus: “I bought it in the good times, couldn't get rid of it.”