A CASH-strapped garda has been found guilty of stealing a tax disc from his superior's office and fraudulently using it on his own car.
Garda Damien Dempsey (44), who had been attached to a community policing office in Tallaght, told Dublin District Court that he barely had enough money to feed himself.
He had admitted not having his 01-reg Lexus car taxed.
However, he had pleaded not guilty to not having motor insurance, fraudulently using the stolen tax disc on his vehicle on April 23 last, and theft of the disc between July 12 last year and April 23 this year.
Judge Hugh O'Donnell heard that the tax disc was meant for an official garda motorcycle and was kept on file in the office of Sergeant Ronan Lawlor.
But it went missing in July last year and an investigation was launched when it was found last April in a bin at the station.
Dublin District Court heard that when he was questioned by a garda inspector, Dempsey admitted that what he had done was wrong and stupid but "theft never entered my head".
When he realised a garda inspector was investigating the theft "it hit me like a ton of bricks", he said in his interview.
The officer, who has no prior criminal convictions, had worked in the drugs area of community policing in Tallaght, the court heard.
In evidence, 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 had enjoyed being a garda and said he never intended it to be a theft.
He told Judge O'Donnell he had been unable to get rid of the car and that it was kept parked at all times at the Plaza complex car park in Tallaght.
"Word got out there was going to be spot checks," he said, before adding, "I did not have money for it – barely have the money to feed myself."
He took the disc from his sergeant's office when the tax ran out on his own car, which he claimed he left parked up at all times. He said he was not "in the right place mentally" and suffered from financial stress, anxiety and ulcers.
He said he wanted to sell his Lexus.
Defence counsel Michael O'Connor pleaded with the judge for leniency and said his client was a man with a future ahead of him and had co-operated with investigation. He also submitted that the case could have "serious implications" for the 44-year-old garda.
The Lexus he owned was not worth anything and it was clear that Dempsey was "not in a good place" at the time.
Judge O'Donnell found him guilty and adjourned the case to consider sentencing.