Ex-garda’s suspended sentence for corruption not increased on appeal
John O’Halloran (48) forged invoices and stole €32,000 to fund his gambling habit
John O’Halloran used garda headed note paper and a garda stamp to forge invoices to obtain money from a residents’ association and UCC students’ union for extra policing that was already being provided, the trial heard.
A former community garda has avoided a jail term after the Court of Appeal decided not to change a two-year suspended sentence he received for corruption, theft and deception offences after he stole €32,000.
John O’Halloran (48), who was based at Barrack Street in Cork city, pleaded guilty to 11 sample charges from more than 200 when he was arraigned at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in November 2017.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain in February 2018 said O’Halloran, who at that stage had resigned from the force, had behaved in a scandalous way after hearing he had obtained the money to feed a chronic gambling addiction.
He sentenced O’Halloran to two years in jail but suspended it on condition he abide by the directions of the Probation Service for two years.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed the sentence on the grounds of undue leniency but the Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Mr Justice George Bermingham and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy ruled that there was no need to alter the sentence.
Delivering the Court of Appeal judgement at the Anglesea Street Courthouse in Cork, Mr Justice Clarke warned that “such wrongdoing in the future should be met with a custodial sentence”.
He said the trial judge was correct to set a headline sentence of three years and reduce it to two in the light of O’Halloran’s guilty plea, which saved the State a complex trial. He said that looking at the mitigating facts, the Court of Appeal was entitled to take into account the fact that O’Halloran had undertaken a course to address his gambling addiction and was continuing to do so.
He said that while there might well have been a case for imposing a custodial term at the time of sentencing, the the lapse of time between the sentence and the appeal meant that a suspended sentence was appropriate.
O’Halloran used garda headed note paper and a garda stamp to forge invoices to obtain money from a residents’ association and UCC students’ union for extra policing that was already being provided, the trial heard.
Judge Ó Donnabhain told him that the manner in which he went around misusing his position as a garda was “scandalous”.
Tom Creed SC, counsel for the DPP, said the suspended sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the offences which were deliberate conduct by O’Halloran which undermined the confidence of the public in An Garda Síochána
“When a member of An Garda Síochána abuses his position,that must be serious in the eyes of the public. An Garda Síochána is at pains to maintain public confidence at all times,” said Mr Creed.
“The Director feels this guard abused his position as a guard for his own personal gain and did it persistently, deliberately and calculatedly. The Director feels it mandates a custodial sentence of some kind.”
Siobhan Lankford SC, for O’Halloran, said she was not excusing her client’s behaviour but that he had lost his job, his marriage and a gratuity he was entitled to as a garda.
“He took monies he should not have taken in a terrible fashion over a long period but it was in some ways a crime of an employee taking money from his employer… He was not taking steps to pervert the course of justice.”
She said that what O’Halloran was remorseful and had paid back more than €23,000 of the €32,000 he had taken.