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Thursday 2 October 2014

No emotion as Callely becomes Prisoner No 92995

Published 29/07/2014 | 02:30

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STONY-FACED and emotionless, Ivor Callely didn't flinch when the five-month sentence for mobile phone expenses fraud was handed down.

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Within seconds of Judge Mary Ellen Ring deciding the former junior minister should serve jail time, he was escorted away by two prison officers.

He had entered Courtroom No 5 at Dublin's Courts of Criminal Justice as a former politician with 25 years' experience representing the people of Dublin's northside, but he left in handcuffs as Prisoner No 92995.

After a few hours in a holding cell at the Parkgate Street complex, he was transported in a prison van to Mountjoy around 3pm.

On his arrival he was brought to the committal unit where he was asked to provide his name, date of birth and address.

Then he had his fingerprints taken, was weighed and photographed before being brought to a single cell, where he spent his first night behind bars.

After an initial period of isolation, authorities plan to integrate him with the general prison population today or tomorrow. A decision has yet to be taken on what facility he will serve out his sentence.

The sentence, handed down by Judge Mary Ellen Ring at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, completes the embattled ex-politician's fall from grace.

Callely left politics in 2011 following a term as a senator marked by controversies over travel expenses claimed from his west Cork holiday home.

However, bogus claims made for mobile phones and accessories valued at over €4,000 while he was in the Seanad came back to haunt him and he was subsequently charged following a garda fraud squad investigation in 2012.

Judge Ring said a custodial sentence was required "in the public interest".

She said Callely (56) "not only broke the law, but breached the trust placed in him as a public representative".

The former junior transport minister was sentenced to five months on each of four counts of using invoices believing them to be false instruments between November 2007 and December 2009 at Leinster House while he was a member of the Seanad.

Callely used bogus invoices from two defunct businesses as part of the fraud.

The sentences will run concurrently and with good behaviour Callely could be free by mid-November.

Callely, with an address at St Lawrence's Road, Clontarf, had pleaded guilty to four counts out of six brought against him. The other two were taken into consideration in sentencing.

The court heard the invoices were submitted to support claims under a mobile phone reimbursement scheme dating to 2002.

Through his counsel, Michael O'Higgins SC, Callely apologised for the offences. "Mr Callely is very remorseful and he wishes to apologise. He is very much aware he has let himself down. He is also very much aware that for the constituents he represented in Dublin for many years, it is a slight on them," said Mr O'Higgins.

However, Judge Ring said no explanation had been given as to why Callely had made the bogus claims.

"This is not a case of a simple mistake or indeed overstretching boundaries," she said.

"Politicians are not expected to be superhuman. They are entitled to get it wrong. But politicians are not expected to cut corners and rely on entitlement for explaining misbehaviour or, indeed, criminal acts."

She said the court had to have "regard for the significant breach of trust".

Arrested

When he was arrested in 2012, Callely told gardai he did not recognise the invoices. He also suggested that a former business partner, John O'Dolan, may have been responsible for the invoices.

Mr O'Dolan had taken his own life three years previously after battling with depression.

Prior to sentencing, defence counsel Michael O'Higgins argued that Callely should not be imprisoned and urged the judge to impose a community service order. He also argued that Callely's case should not be given a special status because he was a politician.

Mr O'Higgins said Callely had purchased a significant number of mobile phone handsets in the period covered by the charges. He said his client had put in "bogus paperwork to support what otherwise would have been a valid claim".

While this was "reprehensible and wrong", it was "different to submitting false paperwork for something one was not entitled to", said Mr O'Higgins.

At a previous hearing Mr O'Higgins told the court his client had 25 years of public service behind him and had suffered personally and professionally because of the charges. He said Callely's marriage had broken up 12 months ago and that he had an €11m judgment hanging over his head as a result of a property deal which went sour.

Irish Independent

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