Ivor Callely sentenced to five months in prison

Former junior minister pleaded guilty to fraudulently using invoice for phone expenses

Former Fianna Fáil junior minister Ivor Callely has been sentenced to five months in prison for fraudulently claiming mobile phone expenses during his time as a senator. Irish Times political correspondent Fiach Kelly reports.

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 13:12

Former Fianna Fáil junior minister Ivor Callely has been sentenced to five months in prison for fraudulently claiming mobile phone expenses during his time as a senator.

He fraudulently claimed a total of €4207.45 using six invoices.

At a sentencing hearing this morning, Judge Mary Ellen Ring said a custodial sentence was needed in the public interest, and the fact of the sentence rather than the length was the most important factor.

Judge Ring said politicians are not expected to be superhuman, but said a major factor in the case was a “significant breach of trust” because of Callely’s role as a public representative.

She imposed a five month sentence on four different counts, to run concurrently.

Judge Ring said he not only broke the law, nor pushed the boundaries, but had “breached the trust placed in him as a public representative”.

While she noted the monies for the expenses had been repaid by Callely, and the amounts were at the lower end of the scale, Judge Ring said an “aggravating factor” was effort went to fraudulently claim the monies.

“This is not a case of a simple mistake or indeed overstretching boundaries,” the judge said. “Politicians are not expected to be superhuman; they are entitled to get it wrong. But politicians are not expected to cut corners and rely on entitlement for explaining misbehaviour or indeed criminal acts.”

Callely (56) had pleaded guilty to four counts of using invoices believing them to be a false instruments between November 2007 and December 2009 at Leinster House, Kildare Street while he was a member of the Seanad.

This morning, prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn SC told Judge Ring it is the DPP’s view that cases involving a “breach of trust” by politicians in the UK tended to attract “relatively modest custodial sentences.”

He referred specifically to press reports of four MPs who were jailed for expenses fraud in recent years. However, Mr McGinn added that it should be noted that the UK have “a very rigid sentencing guidance structure”, unlike Ireland.

Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC said Callely was very “aware he that let himself down”. He submitted that his client is remorseful and is aware he has let his down constituents his Dublin.

Mr O’Higgins cited a number previous cases where politicians were convicted for a breach of trust. He made reference to the case of former minister Fianna Fail Ray Burke who was jailed for six months for tax offences in 2005. Counsel said Burke’s offences are not comparable to Callely’s as they involved the tax code, which is directly decided by legislators.

Mr O’Higgins also referred to the case of Michael Fahy, a Galway county councillor who was jailed in 2007 for theft and fraud offences involving public funds, and the case of Fred Forsey Jnr, a former deputy mayor of Dungarvan who was sentenced to six years in 2012 for accepting corrupt payments. He said Fahy’s prison term was set aside by the court after a retrial and that the Forsey case was not comparable to Callely’s.