Judge: 'Utter joke' that woman released after one month of 18-month sentence

Judge: 'Utter joke' that woman released after one month of 18-month sentence

A sentencing judge who jailed a woman for 18 months for a white collar crime said it was a complete and utter joke for the prison service to release her after she served no more than one month.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said there was no point in imposing another jail sentence on Emma Fehily who committed fraud on top of fraud by presenting a mock character reference as if it was a signed document from a human resources manager at her sentencing hearing.

This document was presented to Judge Ó Donnabháin in November 2018 when he jailed her for two and a half years.

When she appeared before him again for fraud against another employer the same judge noted that she had served only five months and then been released and he said, “You would wonder why bother.” 

Then in February 2020 he sentenced her to 18 months for defrauding another employer of thousands again in the course of her employment.

Yesterday Judge Ó Donnabháin was told that Fehily was released from Limerick Prison in March after serving only one month of the 18 months.

“Sure what is the point? Limerick (Prison) is not taking any notice. First time she is out after five months, second time she is in for one month – sentenced in February, out in March. It is a complete and utter joke,” the judge said.

“There is much made of white collar crime and that courts don’t take it seriously. I take it seriously. Releasing her does not take it seriously. There is no point in me following it (with another custodial sentence),” he said.

So the judge imposed a 12-month sentence for handing to the court a fraudulent letter from her employer and a fraudulent character reference praising her performance in her job. Both were presented as if they had been written and signed by a human resources manager.

Detective Garda Rory O’Connell charged Emma Fehily of Fern Drive, Kilmoney, Carrigaline, County Cork, with two counts of creating false documents and two for attempting to pervert the course of justice with these documents.

The first charges specify that at Rockewell Automaton, IDA industrial estate, Carrigtohill, County Cork, on July 12 2018 she allegedly made a false document purporting to be a character reference from an employer and, on the same date at the same place, another document falsely indicating full time/permanent employment.

The next two charges state that she produced these documents on November 16 2018 to a Circuit Court judge passing sentence in a case, with the intention that the course of public justice should thereby be perverted.

Sinead Behan, defence barrister, told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the accused had engaged very well with Churchfield Community Trust and was about to start a community employment scheme in a coffee shop.

“She has a background of depression and self-harm. At the age of nine, her sister was killed and she (Emma Fehily) was with her in this road traffic accident. This had significant effect on her and it is untreated. One can only wonder are there underlying mental health issues she needs to address,” Ms Behan said.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said it was his view that Fehily had shown “absolutely no remorse".

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