Three civil servants and a law agent have received suspended prison terms and a collective fine of €50,000 for corruption in relation to copies of Land Registry Office file plans and maps.
Liam Rainsford (aged 43), of Cremore Heights, Glasnevin, Michael Byrne (aged 51), Parkwood Road, Old Bawn and Alan Quinn (aged 48), of Broadmeadows, Swords, all accepted payment from Dooley’s Law Agents Limited, for speeding up the process by which the company received documents from the Registry.
Gerard Dooley (aged 50), of Cranagh Park, Rathfarnham, of Dooley’s Law Agents Ltd, admitted that he corruptly gave cheques to Rainsford, Quinn and Byrne on dates between December 19, 2000 and September 1, 2003.
Rainsford pleaded guilty to corruptly receiving four cheques, drawn on Dooley’s account, as a reward for the supply of copy folios and/or file plans in relation to the affairs or business of the Land Registry on dates between November 16, 2001 and May 30, 2003.
Byrne pleaded guilty to the same charge and to additional charge of "making a false instrument" in relation to a land registry document between September 9, 2002 and June 30, 2003.
Quinn admitted also admitted to corruptly accepting four cheques drawn on Dooley’s account as a reward for fixing certificates to maps in relation to the affairs or business of the Land Registry.
Judge Katherine Delahunt at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court imposed a one year sentence each on Rainsford, Quinn and Dooley, which she suspended, and fined them €20,000, €10,000 and €20,000 respectively. She gave Byrne a six month sentence which she also suspended.
Judge Delahunt also remanded the four on continuing bail to next July after she ordered probation reports to see if they were suitable for community service.
The Land Registry was at a loss of €15,000 after Rainsford was personally paid €15.50 rather than the €25 registry fee each time he provided Dooley’s with copies of folios and file plans.
Rainsford received a total of €12,508, almost €100 per week, over 30 months for this service.
Byrne, a senior clerical officer, was paid a total of €300 after he photocopied legitimate copies of documents and signed another staff member’s name to the document. He again speeded up the process for Dooley’s by pushing them up the queue, saving the company a waiting time of a number of weeks.
Quinn, an examiner in charge of the mapping section, received €2,400 after he also organised for the attachment of certificates to maps at a quicker rate than normal and also pushed Dooley’s requests further up the queue.
Judge Delahunt said that since the foundation of the State the people had been served well by the public service "but these men have now done this system a great disservice".
She accepted that Rainsford, Byrne and Quinn were doing a job that they were already paid to do but said they were accepting funds from Dooley for carrying out their work at a quicker pace, while Dooley’s part in the operation increased his profits and turnover of work, which was to the detriment of his competitors.
Mr Sean Gillane BL, prosecuting told Judge Delahunt that the pleas represented a sample of 122 charges, four of which related to Byrne, 43 to Rainsford, 18 to Quinn and 52 to Dooley.
Detective Garda Gerard Doyle told Mr Gillane that the Dublin regional manager of the Land Registry Office contacted gardaí in May 2003 after she noticed irregularities in relation to requests for file plans.
The request came from two particular Dublin solicitors which were represented by Dooley’s firm. An investigation traced the applications to Rainsford, who immediately admitted his involvement to gardaí.
He outlined how he went about processing the applications on behalf of Dooley’s without charging them the registry fee and instead accepting a personal payment.
A subsequent investigation of Dooley’s company accounts found that a number of cheques were issued which were linked back to documents received from the Registry but only 43 could be attributed to Rainsford. The remaining cheques were linked to Quinn and Byrne.
Det. Gda Doyle agreed that all four men fully co-operated with gardaí, took responsibility for their roles and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
It was also accepted that Rainsford, Quinn and Byrne all worked independently of each other and were not aware that the other was getting paid by Dooley’s company to carry out the work.
Det. Gda Doyle agreed with Ms Aideen Donnelly SC, defending Dooley, that Rainsford approached a staff member in Dooley’s office and told him he could speed up the process of getting maps and other documents.
He accepted that Dooley always planned "to make good with the Registry" and had €15,000 in court, which Det Gda Doyle had estimated as the total loss incurred.
His company had gone into liquidation as soon as the offences came to light and he was no longer the director. It was accepted that he had suffered significantly both in the community and in his profession.
Det. Gda Doyle agreed with Mr Sean Guerin BL, defending Rainsford, a married man with four children, that he had been working for the Land Registry since 1983. He immediately volunteered his resignation when the garda investigation began and lost his pension entitlements as a result.
Rainsford had €21,000 in court, €20,000 of which came from his new employer for whom he works as a labourer. He had to work overtime and had taken a pay cut in order to refund the money.
Det. Gda Doyle agreed with Mr Shane Costelloe BL, defending Byrne, that his client worked for the Land Registry for 23 years but was fired when his involvement was discovered. He had €300 in court to cover the money he received.
Byrne had a previous conviction for handling stolen property after he bought a stereo from a person who came into the Land Registry office. He was ordered by the District Court to carry out 240 hours community service.
Det. Gda Doyle agreed with Ms Caroline Cummings BL, defending Quinn, a married man with three children, that he underwent disciplinary procedures at the Registry, having worked there since 1978.
He was suspended twice without pay, with an estimated loss in earnings of between €15,00 and €20,000, and was also no longer eligible for a promotion.
Ms Cummings said Quinn had €2,400 in court, representing the money he received, which counsel said could be provided to the Land Registry or to charity.
Ms Donnelly said that Dooley didn’t literally go into the Land Registry "waving about his cheque book" and then go about "actively corrupting people". She said, rather, that he paid civil servants working on behalf of the State, to speed up a process of obtaining documents he was entitled to.
She said he had spent most of his career building up a firm that was well thought of and which at one time was considered the second biggest such firm in Dublin.
Mr Costelloe said Byrne’s role had represented a breach of trust between him and his employer. He had photocopied legitimate documents but had accepted money for doing it an expedited fashion.
Mr Guerin said that the offences represented "a corruption of a process rather than a corruption of substance". Rainsford had carried out his work in a more timely fashion but had accepted a personal fee at a cheaper rate rather than charging the company the appropriate Land Registry fee.
Ms Cummings said that Quinn had undoubtedly made a "serious error of judgement" which was completely out of character.