Friday 15 November 2019

All Ireland winning under-21 captain waits to hear if he will again avoid jail for stealing €250,000

Pleaded guilty to stealing from employer to fund gambling addiction

Mark Hehir leaving Galway Circuit Court. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Mark Hehir leaving Galway Circuit Court. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Ruaidhri Giblin

AN under-21 All Ireland football winning captain must wait to hear whether he will be spared jail a second time for stealing over €250,000 from his employer to fund a gambling addiction.

Mark Hehir (27), from Kilgevrin, Tuam, Co Galway, had pleaded guilty to the theft of €259,072 from his former employers Galway City Bin company over a six-month period in 2016, after initially becoming addicted to online gambling on his phone while in secondary school.

Hehir was given a wholly suspended two-year sentence and ordered to undertake 240 hours of community service by Judge Rory McCabe at Galway Circuit Criminal Court in January. Judge McCabe also ordered that Hehir remain gambling free, does not open a bookies account, continues to attend counselling and continues to pay €100 a week restitution.

The Director of Public Prosecutions have sought a review of Hehir’s sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”. The three-judge Court of Appeal reserved judgment.

Counsel for the DPP, Lorcan Staines BL, submitted that although the scourge of gambling which afflicted Hehir was “tragic”, it did not amount to an exceptional circumstance which justified community service or a suspended sentence.

Mr Staines said gambling fraud cases were relatively common and all of the factors in Hehir’s case were “quite standard”. He said Hehir’s case was “absolutely devoid of exceptional factors”.

A probation report stated that Mr Hehir, who had no previous convictions, was unlikely to re-offend, took full responsibility for his actions and had clearly shown remorse.

Counsel for Hehir, Bernard Madden SC, said his client was a first time offender who had been completely candid in totally accepting his guilty from the very beginning.

He said Hehir was in gainful employment with a pharmaceutical company, was repaying his former employer as best he could and had already paid back €29,000.

Mr Madden said the wholly exceptional circumstance here was Hehir’s addiction and the manner he was addressing it. Slamming the “jail door” on him was inappropriate because he would be better off outside prison than inside in dealing with his problems.

Furthermore, the suspended sentence was hanging over him if he failed to comply with requirements.

He said Hehir had been the captain of the Galway Under-21 All Ireland winning team. The fact he was charged and sentenced for this offending had a significant effect on his character and reputation in the community. That in itself was a significant punishment, Mr Madden submitted.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would reserve judgment.

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