A JUDGE has said it is "unfair and unjust" that a garda is facing disciplinary action within the force for stealing a motor tax disc, given that he has already been brought to court for the offence.
Judge Hugh O'Donnell said he would strike out the case against Garda Damien Dempsey if garda authorities insisted on pursuing internal sanctions against him.
He said this was "double jeopardy" because Garda Dempsey had already been subjected to a criminal prosecution and had his "name tarnished".
Sentencing was adjourned to allow a representative of the disciplinary section of An Garda Siochana to attend Dublin District Court.
Gda Dempsey was found guilty this week of stealing the disc from a superior's office and putting it on his own private car after its tax had expired.
He had denied the theft at the Community Police Sergeant's Office, The Plaza, Belgard Walk, Tallaght, on a date between July 12, 2012, and April 23, 2013.
Gda Dempsey was also found guilty of fraudulent use of a tax disc and of using a car without insurance. He had admitted a related charge of having no tax on the car.
At the sentencing, Judge O'Donnell remarked that the tax disc was "worthless" at the time the accused was charged and remarked that if an employee of a courier company had done the same thing, the firm would not have reported it.
He said the force could have used its own disciplinary procedures, instead of prosecuting the accused.
"As a result of (the garda authorities) choosing this forum, this defendant has had his name spread all over the papers and his name has been tarnished," he said.
Gda Dempsey had "20 plus" years on the force, with commendations.
The judge was about to apply the Probation Act – leaving the accused with an unrecorded conviction – when defence barrister Miceal O'Connor said Gda Dempsey "will face disciplinary proceedings".
Judge O'Donnell said he thought this was improper and that if the gardai went ahead, he was "going to strike all the proceedings out".
When Det Insp George McGeary said there was provision for both criminal and disciplinary action, the judge replied: "That is double jeopardy – it's wrong, it is inherently unfair and unjust."
He adjourned sentencing to a later date.
At the previous hearing, the court was told the disc had been issued for a garda motorcycle and Gda Dempsey took it from a file at Sergeant Ronan Lawlor's office. He put it on his Lexus, where it was seen.
Gda Dempsey told the court his wife left him three years ago with a mortgage and loans of €2,500 per month.
He had bought the '01 Lexus in "the good times" and the tax and insurance were too expensive for him.
"I just didn't have the money for it," he said, adding: "I barely had the money to feed myself."