Sunday 21 October 2018

'Santa' volunteer jailed for having fake driving licences, motor tax discs

Stock photo: Getty
Stock photo: Getty

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A GRANDFATHER, who dresses up as Santa and visits sick children in hospital, has been jailed for two-and-a-half-years after being caught with equipment capable of making fake driving licences, motor tax discs and car registration plates.

Gregory Kearns (44) told gardai “I'll have all that replaced in a week,” after they uncovered false bank statements, a fake drivers licence, a counterfeit €50 note and fake motor tax disc in the attic of his home.

When told by gardaí they would search his home again, he said he would have it moved elsewhere.

Kearns of Casement Park, Finglas, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 14 counts of illegally possessing false instruments and items that could be used to make false instruments at his home on March 8, 2014.

Sentencing Kearns, Judge Karen O'Connor said “These types of offences facilitate people at the heart of criminality within our society.”

Gold and silver foil, a harp stamp, an 'IRL' stamp, a circular cardboard template for making motor tax discs, scanners and laminators were among the items uncovered by gardai at discovered in the attic of Kearns' home.

Garda Darren Coller told Fiona Murphy BL, prosecuting, that the laminate strip and the gold foil could be used for embossing documents such as driver's licences.

The silver foil could be used to simulate the hologram in €50 notes, the court heard.

Gda Coller said the counterfeit €50 note that was seized had not been made by Kearns.

Kearns has seven previous convictions, including one for handling stolen property. The remainder are for road traffic offences.

Bernard Condon SC, defending, said his client set up a construction company that became insolvent during the downturn.

He said the bank at one point sought to repossess the family home and Kearns was under significant financial pressure.

The court heard that Kearns cared for his elderly mother and was fully supported by his close knit family.

Mr Condon said Kearns was involved in charity work for Focus Ireland and Temple Street Children's Hospital.

“He has the capacity to go out and put on a Santa Claus outfit and visit children and help people out,” Mr Condon said.

Judge O'Connor noted that the probation services described Kearns to be at a high risk of re-offending and that he was unwilling to engage with them in a meaningful way.

However, she said the nature of the offences together with Kearns' very late guilty plea were aggravating factors.

Judge O'Connor sentenced him to four years and suspended the final eighteen months, meaning he will serve two and a half years in jail.

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