Monday 16 July 2018

Disgraced garda who leaked information to criminal gang jailed for 18 months

Jimell Henry passed on sensitive Garda information and forged prescriptions
Jimell Henry passed on sensitive Garda information and forged prescriptions

Andrew Phelan

A DISGRACED garda who leaked sensitive information to a criminal gang has been jailed for 18 months.

Jimell Henry (36) accessed the garda Pulse system from her base in Dublin and passed operational details on to crime contacts in Sligo using a “gouger” phone.

A court heard she had become compromised by a drug habit and got involved with people from the “other side of the tracks” when she carried out the offences over a five-month period.

When she was caught, Henry’s phone had contact numbers for “The Pharmacy” and “The Child”, two senior members of a Sligo criminal gang.

In what was described as the first case of its kind to come before the courts, Henry was today sentenced to three years in prison, with the final 18 months suspended.

Judge Keenan Johnson, who said it was a “deplorable action, undertaken with pre-meditation and planning” handed down the sentence at Sligo Circuit Court today.

Henry, wearing a navy and white striped dress stood at the side of the courtroom with family members and appeared anxious as she awaited sentencing. She spoke only to acknowledge the bond for the suspended portion of her sentence when it was read out, replying “yes” to the court registrar.

She then kissed her father and other family members before she was led away.

Henry, of Cairns Hill, Sligo, pleaded guilty to three charges of disclosing information obtained during the course of her duty as a garda in Co Dublin, knowing that it was likely to have a harmful effect, on dates between December 16, 2014, and January 14, 2015.

She also admitted four counts of disclosing operational details without proper authority between those dates.

Henry further pleaded guilty to two charges of forging prescriptions for medication and two charges of giving false information to obtain prescribed medication from chemists in Sligo between February 3, 2016, and April 20, 2016.

Previously, Superintendent Jim Delaney told the court that gardai in Sligo were concerned in 2015 and 2016 that sensitive garda information was finding its way to a Sligo criminal gang that was allegedly in a feud with another gang.

He said there had been a number of tit-for-tat incidents.

He said that Henry, based in Ballymun, had contacted a Sligo garda, pointing out that some sensitive garda information was appearing on social media.

A "complex multi-disciplinary" investigation was launched and it was found that Henry herself had made 980 queries in a two-week period and 73pc of those were about Sligo on the Pulse system.

Supt Delaney said that Pulse was the most powerful element of An Garda Siochana.

A surveillance operation was put in place with the support of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Acting on information about a potential drugs transaction, Henry's vehicle was observed driving into an underground car park in Ballisodare, a black Volkswagen Passat driven by a man nicknamed "Pharmacy" was also driven in and both he and Henry were arrested.

Gardaí found two phones in Henry's car, one of which she described as a “scrote” or "gouger" or "burner" phone.

Supt Delaney said the investigation was complicated, complex and unprecedented. He said it confirmed that requests were made by the criminals and answers given by text.

Accessing the Pulse system at this level, he said, was tantamount to opening up every terminal by a criminal gang.

Supt Delaney said certain requests by a senior gang member were looking for information specific to a rival gang and there were also questions regarding future prosecutions being taken by gardaí in Sligo.

One stated: "Two summonses on the way for you from your man."

Supt Delaney said that one of the parties identified by name in breach of the Data Protection Act had provided a victim impact statement in which he said he found it difficult to trust anyone after this, in particular the gardaí.

He said the passing of information by Henry was illegal and endangered his life and that of his family.

Garda David Hannigan gave evidence in relation to the prescription drugs offences.

He said Henry indicated she had been on prescription drugs for a period of time and referred to the tragic death of her mother, a car crash and an incident at a concert.

Garda Hannigan said there were seven pharmacies involved.

In April 2016, over the course of 15 days, he said she obtained four months of prescription drugs and the fifth attempt was refused.

Over ten days in February 2016, she attempted to obtain seven months’ prescriptions. Only one was genuine and one was refused.

Judge Johnson said had Henry lost her position in the garda. Supt Delaney had said there was evidence of persistent drug use by the accused but she had been a “willing participant” in the disclosure of information to a criminal gang.

Supt Delaney had noted there had been “no actual harm” done as a result of the leaks but it could “not be overstated the serious harm which could have resulted from them.”

The victim about whom information was leaked said in a statement he found it difficult to trust anyone, particularly the gardai.

He stated that Henry abused her authority and the passing of information by her was illegal and endangered his life and the lives of his family.

“The offences undermine public confidence in the Garda and mark a serious betrayal of trust by the accused,” Judge Johnson said.

“By her actions the accused put investigations and more importantly lives at risk. She caused serious reputational damage to An Garda Siochana, although it has to be said that the thorough investigation undertaken by the gardai which resulted in the apprehension and successful prosecution of the accused goes a long way to restoring the force’s reputation and undoing the damage caused by the criminality of the accused.”

The public could be assured that the gardai would “not be found wanting” when it comes to prosecuting members of the force for criminality, the judge said.

“The public have a right to expect members of An Garda Siochana to be beyond reproach,” he said.

“Not alone did the accused as an acting member of An Garda Siochana break the law but by releasing the sensitive information from the Pulse system to members of the criminal fraternity, she put the lives of members of the public at risk,” the judge said.

“It was a deplorable action undertaken with premeditation and planning,” he said.

As the information was transmitted via a burner phone, the judge repeated calls for restrictions on the purchase of “pay as you go” phones.

He also said random drug testing in the gardai was essential to ensure members of the force with drug issues are given help.

“There can be little doubt but that a garda who is on active duty and has drug addiction problems is vulnerable to being used and blackmailed by his/ her supplier,” the judge said.

Among the aggravating factors, he said, were the fact that lives were put at risk and the effect on the reputation of the gardai.

Mitigating factors included her plea of guilty and her own “irreparable” reputational damage and the shame she had brought on her family.

Given her previously “unblemished record” in the gardai, the publicity around the case was “a significant punishment in and of itself,” he said.

Henry came from a highly respected family and both her father and grandfather had distinguished careers in the gardai.

The judge noted that a prison sentence would be more difficult for Henry than for an ordinary citizen. Henry had mental health issues including anxiety stemming from her mother’s death when Henry was 15.

She was “never able to deal with this” and took sanctuary in using headshop drugs and cocaine, the judge noted.

The defence had argued that the offending in a short period of time was an “aberration” for Henry, who had expressed remorse which the judge accepted was sincere.

Thse who submitted testimonials included Marc McSharry TD, who said the accused had fallen under bad influence which was out of character.

Former EU Commissioner, TD and minister Ray McSharry said in a testimonial Henry’s father was held in the highest esteem and that the accused made an “error of judgement.”

Judge Johnson imposed sentence on one count and took the rest into consideration. He suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on the accused entering a good behaviour bond for five years.

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