The brother of a Government minister has been convicted of not paying the duty on a quantity of cigarettes after a senior lawyer for the Revenue Commissioners said the legislation in place does not allow any alternative.
John Daly, of The Paddock, Drinagh, Co Cork, first pleaded guilty last October to failing to declare €400 of cigarettes he had for sale in his shop, detected in a Revenue inspection in November 2016.
However, the 50-year-old, a postmaster and a brother of Fine Gael TD and minister of state Jim Daly, had hoped to avoid a conviction.
As the case rumbled on for almost nine months, Judge Mary Dorgan heard of Mr Daly’s “impeccable character”, the pressure he had been under at the time, and the possibility that his role as postmaster might be jeopardised by a conviction.
At Clonakilty District Court yesterday, the case was finalised, but only after evidence given by a senior Revenue solicitor and after it emerged the summons in the case included an incorrect date.
Ms Justice Dorgan was told by State solicitor Malachy Boohig that the summons should have indicated the visit by Revenue inspectors to the shop in Drinagh took place on November 7, 2016, not November 4.
He said the case had not been prejudiced by the error, inspectors had only visited the shop once, and a guilty plea followed.
James Brooks, Mr Daly’s solicitor, did not consent to Mr Boohig’s application for an amendment but accepted the judge had discretion to grant it, which he subsequently did.
Within days of the inspection, Mr Daly had written a contrite letter to Revenue.
The case file was sent to a Revenue legal official in Donegal, who had responded that, given the circumstances, Revenue “could not justify adopting another course of action” in the case.
Mr Brooks asked whether this meant Revenue had options other than pursuing a conviction, but Mr Boohig said this indicated either a prosecution or dropping the case.
Tom Browne, based in Cork with the Revenue’s criminal prosecution division, explained why a prosecution was brought.
“A compromise penalty can not be considered,” Mr Browne told the judge, citing not just the guilty plea but also the fact that tobacco was involved — if it had been mineral oil, rather than tobacco, a conviction could have been avoided if a penalty was paid.
He said the Oireachtas had set down “clear guidelines” on this matter.
Mr Browne also said aggravating factors were considered, such as Mr Daly’s “position of trust in the community” and his role as postmaster handling private data.
Mr Brooks said his client had received “adverse publicity” and it needed to be stressed the cigarettes that had been for sale were not stolen.
He said the cigarettes were in the shop next door and not in the post office.
Convicting Mr Daly, Judge Dorgan ordered a mitigated penalty of €2,500 — the lowest sum possible — to be paid within five months.
Recognisance to appeal was set at €125 in cash on Mr Daly’s own bond.
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