Wednesday 13 December 2017

Students who sat each other's Leaving Cert paper fined €200

Conor Dooney
Conor Dooney
Stephen Boucher

Sonya McLean

A GRADUATE of Yale University and a rugby team vice-captain have each been fined €200 after they sat each other's Leaving Certificate physics exam.

Conor Dooney (22), described in court as a gifted student, sat Stephen Boucher's (22) higher-level physics paper in 2008 after using his friend's student number.

Both men avoided jail yesterday when a judge ruled they "were stupid but that is the height of it".

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Boucher felt he needed a better mark and the extra points for a marketing degree. Dooney, a middle distance runner, had already been accepted into Yale University in Connecticut on an athletics scholarship -- and so felt his Leaving Certificate mark wasn't too important.


As it turned out, Boucher got more points than he needed for the marketing course in Dublin Institute of Technology on Aungier Street, meaning Dooney's points were of no benefit to him.

The students were caught out after their physics teacher heard rumours that they had sat each other's exam. She reported it to the principal after noting that Dooney got a C grade in his paper when she expected him to get an A.

Garda Joanne Holahan said that the teenagers' English exams were then compared to their physics exams.

The scripts were later sent to a handwriting expert at the Garda Technical Bureau and compared with other samples of the students' handwriting.

Dooney, of Northumberland Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, and Boucher of Old Bray Road, Foxrock, pleaded guilty to impersonating each other during the exam at Christian Brothers College, in Monkstown on June 16, 2008.

Judge Desmond Hogan said it was a serious matter on the face of it but added "looking at it from the best point of view, their judgment got severely clouded because one felt a sense that he would underachieve and the other felt he should help out a friend".

He was told by Tara Burns, for the prosecution, that the maximum penalty available to the court was a two-year jail term and/or a fine up to €5,000.

But the judge said that he felt "a custodial sentence would be disproportionate".

"They were very stupid but that is the height of it," Judge Hogan said, adding that he did not want a conviction to inhibit either's future career.

He said he was "not a little influenced by testimonials and references" handed in on behalf of both men.

The judge also noted that the institutions from which they subsequently "obtained high academic achievement" also supplied references in the knowledge that both men had committed this crime.

Gda Holahan agreed that neither Dooney nor Boucher have any previous convictions.

She further agreed with Patrick Gageby, defending Dooney, that his client had basically gifted Boucher with better marks than he otherwise would have got and "took a hit for his Leaving Certificate result".

Justin McQuade, defending Boucher, told Judge Hogan his client has since completed the marketing degree at DIT and obtained a 2.1 degree.

He said his client is currently vice-captain for the first team at Seapoint Rugby Club and was working during the summer holidays as a rugby coach in his former secondary school. James Finnegan, an Irish teacher from the school, told Mr Gageby that Dooney had been a popular student.

He said he introduced Dooney to cross-country running and track and field at quite a young age and he had a great athletic ability.

Mr Finnegan said Dooney qualified for the Leinster Championships after he ran the race with a broken collar bone. He later ran for his country.

He agreed that Dooney got a degree from Yale after he was awarded an athletic scholarship to attend there.

Mr Gageby told Judge Hogan his client was "a bright and gifted young man on the cusp of a career" and had agreed to sit Boucher's paper because of "a misguided sense of friendship".

Neither man wished to comment last night.

Irish Independent

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