A Yale graduate and a rugby team vice-captain have each been fined €200 after they sat each other’s Leaving Certificate physics exam.
Conor Dooney (aged 22), described in court as a gifted student, sat Stephen Boucher’s (aged 22) higher level physics paper after using his friend’s student number because Boucher wanted the extra points for a marketing degree.
Boucher later got 20 points more than he needed for the course in Dublin Institute of Technology on Aungier Street, meaning Dooney’s points were of no benefit to him.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the students were caught out after their physics teacher heard rumours that they had sat each other’s exam. She reported it to the principal after noting that Dooney got a “C” in his paper when she expected him to get an “A”.
Garda Joanne Holahan told Tara Burns BL, prosecuting, that the teenagers’ English exams were then compared to their physics exams.
The scripts were later sent to a handwriting expert at the Garda Technical Bureau and compared with other samples of the students’ handwriting.
Dooney of Northumberland Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, and Boucher of Old Bray Road, Foxrock pleaded guilty to impersonating each other during the exam at Christian Brothers College, in Monkstown on June 16, 2008.
Judge Desmond Hogan said it was a serious matter on the face of it but added “looking at it from the best point of view, their judgement got severely clouded arising because one felt a sense that he would underachieve and the other felt he should help out a friend.”
He was told by Ms Burns that the maximum penalty available to the court was a two-year jail term and or a fine up to €5,000 but the judge said he felt “a custodial sentence would be disproportionate”.
“They were very stupid but that is the height of it,” Judge Hogan said, adding that he did not want a conviction to inhibit either man’s potential future career.
He said he was “not a little influenced by testimonials and references” handed in on behalf of both men.
The judge also noted that the institutions from which they subsequently “obtained high academic achievement” also supplied references in the knowledge that they had committed this crime.
Gda Holahan agreed that neither Dooney nor Boucher have any previous convictions and both come from decent, hard-working families.
She further agreed with Patrick Gageby SC, defending Dooney, that his client had basically gifted Boucher with better marks than he otherwise would have got and “took a hit for his Leaving Certificate result”.
Justin McQuade BL, defending Boucher, told Judge Hogan his client has since completed the marketing degree at DIT and obtained a 2.1 degree.
He said his client is currently vice-captain for the first team at Seapoint Rugby Club and was working during the summer holidays as a rugby coach in his former secondary school.
James Finnegan an Irish teacher from the school told Mr Gageby that Dooney had been a popular student who had been well liked by his classmates.
He said he introduced Dooney to cross country running and track and field at quite a young age and he had a great athletic ability.
Mr Finnegan recounted that Dooney qualified for the Lenister Champions after he ran the race with a broken collar bone. He later ran for his country a couple of months later.
He agreed that Dooney got a degree from Yale after he was awarded an athletic scholarship to attend there.
Mr Gageby told Judge Hogan his client was “a bright and gifted young man on the cusp of a career” and had agreed to sit Boucher’s paper because of “a misguided sense of friendship”.