Callely jailed for expenses fraud
Former junior minister Ivor Callely has been sentenced to five months' imprisonment for fraudulently claiming expenses while he was a politician.
The 56-year-old ex-Fianna Fail TD and senator pleaded guilty to fraudulently using bogus invoices to claim money from the Houses of Oireachtas for mobile phone costs totalling more than 4,000 euro.
Sentencing him at Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Mary Ellen Ring said politicians are not expected to be superhuman and can, like anyone else, make mistakes.
But she warned that politicians cannot be allowed to cut corners or rely on entitlements as an excuse for criminal offences.
The judge said no explanation was given to the court as to why Callely committed the offences other than he was entitled to the money.
She said a custodial sentence was required in the public interest.
Callely, a separated father-of-three, with an address in St Lawrence Road, Clontarf, north Dublin, was given five months in jail for each of the four counts of fraud dating back to 2092. The sentences are to run concurrently.
The former TD, wearing a grey-blue suit, light blue shirt and green tie, made no reaction when his sentence was handed down.
Judge Ring said the offences were not a simple mistake or an extending of the boundaries.
The disgraced politician had broken the law and breached the trust placed in him, she ruled.
She said the court took into consideration Callely's personal, financial and political difficulties when handing down the sentence, and accepted he was at a low risk of reoffending in the near future.
The judge looked at a number of breach of trust cases involving politicians in Ireland, UK and Canada before deciding on the term.
Michael O'Higgins SC, barrister for Callely, accepted that his client's crimes were "reprehensible and wrong" but argued that there was a distinction between using bogus paperwork for money he was entitled to and making false claims for money to which he was not entitled.
The former politician was very aware he had let himself down and equally his one-time constituents in Dublin North Central, the court heard.
Pleading for a non-custodial sentence, Mr O'Higgins said the crimes were a slight on those who had voted for Callely as well and he apologised to them.
The barrister said the tradition in Ireland was that a custodial sentence was a last port of call.
Prosecutor Dominic McGinn SC had referred the court to the cases of four British MPs recently jailed for fraudulently claiming expenses.
But he added there was a more rigid sentencing regime in the UK.
Defending, Mr O'Higgins said the fund Callely had claimed from was not a statutory scheme.
It was not a case of his client having helped to pass laws and then breaching them, and nor was it similar to cases where elected representatives filed false tax returns, he argued.
The former minister of state in the health and transport departments had pleaded guilty to four counts of using invoices believing them to be false instruments between November 2007 and December 2009 while he was a senator.
The claims were backdated several years and related to mobile phones, BlackBerry handsets, car kits, installation, insurance and maintenance.
The expenses totalled 4,0267.45 euro.
Most of the money was repaid in August 2010 - when a journalist made freedom of information requests on the claims - before a Garda investigation was launched.
Judge Ring said it was public money but added that the amount lost to the state was at the lower end of the scale.