Wednesday 16 January 2019

Garda who admitted corruption and theft charges avoids prison

John O’Halloran. Photo: Cork Courts Limited
John O’Halloran. Photo: Cork Courts Limited

Ralph Riegel

A garda with a chronic gambling addiction who admitted corruption and theft charges has avoided prison.

Former Garda John O'Halloran (47) was handed a two year suspended prison sentence for setting up an unsanctioned Garda advice clinic at a leading university and then sending forged invoices to a student's union for providing extra policing services.

O'Halloran, who resigned as a Garda last November, pleaded guilty before Cork Circuit Criminal Court to corruption, theft and fraud charges.

The court heard he had been "disgraced" and that his actions had "tarnished the good name of An Garda Siochana."

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain noted the impact the offences had on O'Halloran's life and the fact that a prison sentence would be very difficult for any Garda.

He imposed a two year suspended prison term.

The judge was told an analysis of accounts controlled by the former Garda of Barrack Street Station revealed he had gambled €150,000 online between 2009 and 2014.

Inspector Fergal Foley said the defendant suffered from a chronic gambling addiction.

"The gambling reached epidemic proportions (in 2014). It had spiralled out of control.

"A significant number of people expressed to us the hope that he would deal with his demons."

The court heard an investigation was launched into the garda after a woman from the Connacht Avenue Residents Association (CARA) complained that €5,500 had been loaned to him but he had then refused to pay it back.

Garda O'Halloran worked as a community officer in the area involved.

Inspector Foley said his investigation reached a point where he believed it was a criminal rather than a Garda disciplinary matter.

The subsequent investigation revealed Garda O'Halloran had set up a Garda advice clinic in University College Cork (UCC) without the knowledge or permission of his superiors.

He had also issued invoices, on forged Garda Siochana notepaper, for the provision of extra policing services around UCC and the College Road during Rag Week and Refreshers Week

Templates for these fake invoices were subsequently found on a memory stick in Garda O'Halloran personal station locker.

More than €7,300 was paid on foot of the fake invoices - all of which he used for his own personal purposes.

Some of the funds were given in the belief it was going to various charities.

Other monies were paid in the belief it was extra policing services provided by Garda O'Halloran - despite the fact he had been detailed to provide these same services by his superiors.

His actions resulted in one major organisation which used UCC as a venue for charitable fundraising losing their main sponsor.

The investigation also revealed that Garda O'Halloran had changed his father's pension arrangements so that the funds were paid directly into his own account.

The garda's father died in November 2011 - but his pension payments continued to be paid until 2014.

The payments continued on foot of a document signed and stamped from Angelsea Street Garda Station on March 17 2012 - by a Garda who was not based at the station.

The €11,817 paid over the period has since been repaid to the CIE Pension Scheme.

The €5,500 loaned to the Garda by the CARA member was repaid by the garda's wife.

The court was told that other monies taken have also been repaid including funds to CARA and the UCC Student's Union.

"The thing that is troubling me - it is the fact that as a Garda, over a period of time, he used that in a determined and calculated way to dupe people," the judge said.

"He was using his status as a Garda to get money for policing."

Judge O'Donnabhain noted that the defendant had lost his job, been publicly disgraced, had lost a pension payment of€€80,000 and had also seen his marriage break up.

"Is there any colder place than that of a disgraced Garda," the judge said?

Defence counsel Ronan Munro SC said his client was deeply remorseful over what happened.

"He is deeply ashamed for having tarnished the good name of An Garda Siochana," he said.

"He is very, very sorry. His marriage is gone, his profession is gone. His gambling addiction was totally out of control - every single penny he had was gambled."

The defendant has since attended a treatment centre for his gambling problem.

O'Halloran had served as a Garda for 19 years and was based at Barrack Street in Cork city.

The former community Garda pleaded guilty last October to 11 sample charges of corruption, theft and fraud.

The 11 counts were samples from more than 200 charges tendered.

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