Saturday 16 February 2019

Retired garda found guilty of lying in GSOC investigation into Valentine's Day card containing bullet and thong

Det Garda David O'Brien leaves the CCJ in Dublin. Picture Credit: Damien Eagers
Det Garda David O'Brien leaves the CCJ in Dublin. Picture Credit: Damien Eagers
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A retired detective garda has been found guilty of lying to GSOC officers who were investigating the posting of a Valentine's day card containing a bullet, a thong and a "raunchy" poem.

David O'Brien (52) was fined €500 for making a false statement to the garda watchdog.

O'Brien was a member of the "cold case" Serious Crime Review Team based at Harcourt Square when he committed the crime.

He has since left the force.

Dublin District Court heard a woman O'Brien knew allegedly mailed the envelope and when GSOC interviewed him, he claimed he had not been in touch with her since the 1990s.

However, the court heard the pair had exchanged hundreds of calls and texts before and after the package was allegedly sent.

O'Brien had pleaded not guilty to giving false or misleading information to the Garda Siochtana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC)  on September 10, 2012.

During the trial, the court heard nearly 300 calls and texts were exchanged between two phones linked to the pair over the course of eight weeks.

Some 291 communications passed between the phones between February 1, 2011 and March 26, 2011.

A total of 187 calls and texts were sent from O'Brien's phone with 104 returned from the other phone.

Detective Sergeant Michael Buckley received the package at his workplace where O' 'Brien worked under him. O'Brien denied any involvement and said he had not spoken to the woman who allegedly sent the envelope in 15 to 20 years.

The GSOC complaint was made by Det Sgt Buckley's wife Briege who claimed her husband was being bullied and intimidated.

She felt the bullet was a threat to her and her two sons.

Defence barrister Kathleen Leader BL said the prosecution had admitted that the evidence in relation to the woman's phone was "not strong."

There was no evidence from anybody that the phone was attributable to the woman in the time frame in question.

Ms Leader said there were "reasonable possibilities" for the use of the woman's phone in 2011.

"She could have given it to her child, she could have lost it, there is any number of possibilities," Ms Leader said.

"Sending a card with a raunchy poem and a thong? Is that something somebody would do for somebody they hadn't met since the 1990s? I don't know, I'm just throwing it out there," Judge Smyth said.

Prosecutor Tony McGillicuddy said it was "nowhere near the standard of proof" required.

The court heard O'Brien had no previous convictions of any kind.

He had joined the gardai in 1983 and retired in March 2015, Ms Leader said.

He spent most of his time in the Dublin North Central area before joining the cold case unit in 2007.

His service was of an "exemplary nature" until his suspension in September 2013.

After that he was at a "significant monetary loss," Ms Leader said.

"I appreciate that this has been a very difficult matter for Mr O'Brien," Judge Smyth said.

"I think the court has no alternative but to proceed to conviction."

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