Wednesday 17 July 2019

Garda who harassed solicitor to be freed from jail after appeal

Scurrilous lies: Garda Eve Doherty was jailed after writing abusive letters to her lover’s former partner, Elizabeth Howlin. Photo: Collins Courts
Scurrilous lies: Garda Eve Doherty was jailed after writing abusive letters to her lover’s former partner, Elizabeth Howlin. Photo: Collins Courts

Ruaidhri Giblin

A detective garda jailed for harassing a State solicitor by sending abusive letters will walk free from prison following a successful sentence appeal.

Eve Doherty (51), of Blackglen Road, Sandyford, Dublin, had the balance of her three-year sentence suspended yesterday by the Court of Appeal.

Her 2017 trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that over an 18-month period, letters and emails were sent to the home and place of work of State solicitor Elizabeth Howlin, scurrilously calling her "corrupt", an "incompetent useless hobbit" and a "two-faced b***h".

At the time in question, Ms Howlin worked with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), where she was involved in deciding whether or not to bring prosecutions in criminal cases.

Doherty held the position of detective sergeant and worked in the crime and security division of An Garda Síochána.

The court heard that Ms Howlin didn't know Doherty until the trial and that Doherty was then in a relationship with Ms Howlin's ex-partner.

Doherty was found guilty by a jury of harassing Ms Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013. She had denied the charge and was acquitted on two counts of making false statements.

Sentencing Doherty to three years' imprisonment in January 2018, Judge Melanie Greally said the communications by Doherty contained outright and "scurrilous" lies.

Judge Greally noted that Doherty showed no remorse and had not acknowledged her wrongdoing.

Suspending the unserved balance of her 36-month sentence yesterday, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Doherty's first 12 months in custody were "exceptionally difficult".

As a female first-time offender of previous good character, Mr Justice Birmingham said she had served 20 months in a secure environment, the Dóchas Centre women's prison in Dublin.

He said experience had shown that first-time offenders of previous good character, who were male, might be expected to serve a significant portion of their sentence in an open prison. But no such facility existed in the State for women, the court heard.

Doherty's barrister, Michael O'Higgins SC, referred to his client's accomplishments in her career and the recognised difficulty gardaí face when serving prison sentences. He said the absence of an acknowledgment of wrongdoing should not "set at nought" other factors that were in Doherty's favour.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the sentencing judge ought to have considered suspending a portion of Doherty's sentence to incentivise her to not to reoffend.

He said the decision to impose a straight three-year sentence, without any suspended element, was an error in principle.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would suspend the unserved balance of Doherty's sentence on condition she not contact or communicate directly or indirectly with the injured party or with third parties in relation to the injured party for five years.

Doherty undertook to be so bound.

Irish Independent

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