Garda not guilty of tax-disc theft after judge 'reconsiders'
A CASH-strapped garda who took a motor tax disc from his superior's office and put it on his own private car has been cleared of theft after a judge "reconsidered" the case.
Garda Damien Dempsey (44) had initially been found guilty of stealing the disc but Judge Hugh O'Donnell dismissed the charge when the case came back before Dublin District Court.
However, he fined Garda Dempsey €500 for a lesser offence – having no valid tax on his Lexus.
Following legal submissions by the defence, Judge O'Donnell said he was dismissing the theft charge because it had not been proven that Garda Dempsey "intended to permanently deprive the owner" of the disc.
He also dismissed charges of fraudulent use of the disc and using a vehicle without insurance.
The judge had previously found him guilty on all counts but reviewed the case after hearing that the accused faced separate disciplinary action within the force.
The judge had criticised the garda authorities, describing this as "double jeopardy" and remarking that this was "unjust and unfair".
Garda Dempsey had denied all the charges he was accused of, except not having valid tax.
His car had been parked outside the community police sergeant's office in Tallaght at time of the alleged offences on dates between July 12, 2012, and April 23, 2013.
Defence barrister Michael O'Connor asked the judge to dismiss the offences in view of what had happened and how Garda Dempsey had suffered.
"In all probability he is going to lose his job," he said.
The judge said he was not going to comment further and imposed the fine and convictions for having no valid tax disc and not displaying one.
At the earlier hearing, the court was told the disc had been issued for a garda motorcycle, and Garda Dempsey took it from a file at Sergeant Ronan Lawlor's office.
He put it on his Lexus, which was parked outside the office. It was seen on his car and investigating officers eventually found it in a bin.
Garda Dempsey had been under severe financial pressure following his marriage break-up. He admitted in interview that he knew he had done wrong and it was a "stupid act" but it "never entered his head" that it was theft. The investigation hit him "like a tonne of bricks".
Garda Dempsey had told the court his wife left him three years ago with a mortgage and loans of €2,500 a month.
He had bought the Lexus in "the good times" and then "couldn't get rid of it". The tax and insurance were too expensive for him, he said.