Handling of Garda tax theft 'unjust'
on 05/10/2013 00:00:00
He compared the possibility of him also having to face disciplinary proceedings to "double jeopardy", and threatened to throw out the case against the garda, who has told the court that he barely had enough money to feed himself.
The 44-year-old officer, who has more than 20 years' service, admitted not having his '01-reg Lexus car taxed. However, he pleaded not guilty to not having motor insurance, fraudulently using the stolen tax disc on his vehicle on April 23 and theft of the disc between July 12 last year and April 23 this year, but he was found guilty by Judge O'Donnell following a hearing on Monday.
When the case resumed yesterday, Judge O'Donnell said the tax disc was worthless and added that there is a facility in An Garda Síochána to bring a disciplinary action against an officer. "It was obviously decided by someone not to use it," he said.
"[Due to the prosecution, Gda Dempsey] had his name spread all over the papers and his character has been tarnished," the judge said. "I am told he is a garda with 20-plus years of service with commendations. I do not know why it was chosen to go this route."
The judge indicated that he would apply the Probation Act in respect of the theft charge, at which point defence counsel Miceal O'Connor pointed out that the case will still result in his client facing disciplinary proceedings.
In reply, Judge O'Donnell said he believed that would be improper; he then asked: "Is it going to happen?" before saying he will strike out the case if the officer faces disciplinary proceedings after the court case.
Insp George McGeary told the judge there were provisions for garda members to face both internal disciplinary proceedings as well as prosecution in court.
"That is double jeopardy," replied the judge, who added that it would be "inherently unfair and unjust".
The judge then demanded an undertaking that there would be no disciplinary action taken against Gda Dempsey, which Inspector McGeary said he has unable to give. The judge then agreed to defer finalising the case to allow an officer from the Garda disciplinary section to come to court to deal with this issue.
Earlier, Judge O'Donnell had been told the stolen tax disc was meant for an official garda motorcycle and had been kept on file in the office of Sergeant Ronan Lawlor. It went missing in July last year and an investigation was launched when it was found in April in a bin at the station.
In an interview with a garda inspector, Gda Dempsey admitted what he had done was wrong and stupid but "theft never entered my head".
The officer, who has no prior criminal convictions, had worked in the drugs area of community policing in Tallaght, the court heard.
He 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.