Woman convicted of fraud for third time in three years spared jail time

Judge says little point in prison time as authorities released her after one month of previous sentence

Judge Sean O Donnabhain was told that Emma Fehily (36) had served just five months of a 30-month term he imposed in 2018 for fraud offences and then just one month of another 18-month term he imposed earlier this year

Judge Sean O Donnabhain was told that Emma Fehily (36) had served just five months of a 30-month term he imposed in 2018 for fraud offences and then just one month of another 18-month term he imposed earlier this year

 

A judge said he saw little point in jailing a woman convicted of her third set of fraud offences in as many years after hearing the prison authorities had released her after serving just one month of a previous 18-month sentence.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain was told that Emma Fehily (36) had served just five months of a 30-month term he imposed in 2018 for fraud offences and then just one month of another 18-month term he imposed earlier this year.

“Sure what is the point? Limerick Prison is not taking any notice. First time, she is out after five months, second time she is in for one month – sentenced in February, out in March. It is a complete and utter joke,” he said.

“There is much made of white collar crime and that courts don’t take it seriously. I take it seriously but releasing her does not take it seriously. There is no point in me following it with another custodial sentence.”

Judge O Donnabhain said given the decision by the prison authorities to twice release her after serving just short portions of her earlier sentences, he believed the appropriate penalty was a 12-month suspended sentence.

Fehily from Fern Drive, Kilmoney, Carrigaline, Co Cork had pleaded guilty to two fraud offences when she appeared before Judge O Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday.

She pleaded guilty to forging a character reference from her then employer, Rockwell Automation of Carrigtwohill on June 8th, 2018 with the intent of inducing another person to believe it was genuine.

And she pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice on November 16th, 2018, by presenting the forged reference to Judge O Donnabhain with the intent of influencing sentencing in an earlier case.

Det Garda Rory O’Connell, who investigated Fehily’s latest fraud offences, told the court that the charges followed on from previous fraud offences committed by Fehily while working for other companies.

She had been sentenced in November 2018 after she pleaded guilty to 13 counts of theft of sums totalling over €25,000 at Johnson & Perrott Garage when she worked there in 2014 and 2015.

And she was also sentenced after pleading guilty to 28 theft related charges involving sums totalling more than €34,000 when working at Westbourne IT Solutions in late 2015 and 2016.

Since presenting the forged document at her sentencing hearing in November 2018 for those offences, Fehily had since pleaded guilty to 67 counts of theft and two of deception from Rockwell Automation in 2017 and 2018.

She was sentenced by Judge O Donnabhain for those offences in February 2020 to three years in jail with 18 months suspended but served only one month of it before being released from prison, said Det Garda O’Connell.

Defence barrister, Sinead Behan BL said that her client had engaged very well with the Churchfield Community Trust since her release from prison in March and was about to start a community employment scheme in a coffee shop.

“She has a background of depression and self-harm,” said Ms Behan, adding that she suspected her client had underlying mental health issues stemming from being in a car crash as a nine-year-old child when claimed the life of her sister.

Hearing that Fehily had a total of 116 previous convictions including 109 for theft, Judge O Donnabhain said he saw no sign of “genuine remorse” on her part before he imposed the suspended 12-month term for her latest offences.