Garda jailed for three years for corruption and deception

A garda who admitted charges of deception and corruption has been jailed for three years at Trim Circuit Court.

Judge John Martin described the garda's offending as an abuse, exploitation and betrayal of those over whom he had power.

Thirty nine year old Joseph Doyle, The Hawthorns, Kilcock Co Kildare had originally gone on trial facing 89 charges of deception and corruption committed between 2018 and 2020.

On the third day of the hearing in June the defendant pleaded guilty to 18 sample charges of corruption and 11 sample charges of deception committed while he had been the acting Public Service Vehicle (PSV) Inspector for Co Meath.

Prosecuting counsel Carl Hanahoe BL told the court that a PSV inspector's role includes the need to carry out checks on public service vehicles including buses, coaches, taxis and hackneys to ensure they are fit to carry passengers and meet all safety requirements.

The court heard that in 2018 the defendant had suggested to his superior that buses should undergo a second brake test and cited the Kentstown bus crash of 2005 in which five students died.

While he was not directed to introduce this second test the defendant did so and induced some of the owners to pay €25 for bogus additional brake test fees and also charged some school bus owners €60 for licences which are free.

The alleged extra tests involved the defendant driving the vehicle up and down a laneway.

As the only PSV Inspector in the district the defendant was in a position of power said Mr Hanahoe.

'He's in a position of significant authority over bus operators in the division ' , he said.

Det. Sgt James King from the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation told the prosecutor that the vehicle owners were asked to pay the bogus fees in cash while cheques from some ended up in the defendant's bank account and in his wife's account.

The scam involved payments of at least €3,585.

A number of the bus operators were also duped into making cash donations to the defendant on behalf of an allegedly ill school girl and for fictitious charity events including a non existent sky dive.

The sergeant said he began an investigation in May 2020 following concerns expressed by some of the owners as the brake tests were not carried out in other counties.

' I met PSV operators in person to find out what was going on' , he said.

The court heard that one of the operators who queried the brake tests with the defendant was warned against taking the matter further.

'I can get you stopped at every checkpoint and make your life a misery ' the defendant said.

Another operator felt vulnerable as the defendant had falsely claimed her husband had failed a breath test driving their school bus.

The sergeant said another bus owner had been rung by the defendant during the investigation telling him not make a statement.

In victim impact statements read to the court by the sergeant a number of the owners expressed their disgust that the defendant had used the pretence of a sick child to get money for himself and said their trust in gardai had been diminished.

One victim said he felt his livelihood would be gone if he did not pay the fees requested by the defendant.

The court heard the defendant was arrested and suspended on basic pay.

Defence barrister Kathleen Leader SC told the court her client had always wanted to be a garda and joined the force through the garda reserve.

'His ambition from a early age was to be a garda because he wanted to help people but somewhere along the way he lost his own moral compass ', she said.

The barrister said the defendant who apologised for his behaviour was ashamed of his wrong doing and sorry for the distress he had caused the victims, his family and colleagues and for the shame he had brought on An Garda Síochána.

Ms Leader said that her client had €8,000 as compensation for the victims and added that since his suspension in 2020 he had been studying to become an electrician and was now going to resign from the force.

Judge Martin noted the defendant had no addiction issues or been under financial pressure at the time of the offending and concluded his sole motivation had been greed.

The judge identified a number of aggravating factors in the case including the lack of an explanation for the defendant's actions , the breach of trust involved and the prolonged abuse of his power over the owners.

'You knew you had them over a barrel ' , he said.

Judge Martin said the defendant had sought to benefit from the Kentstown bus crash and he noted this as 'a particularly disturbing aspect '.

The judge said in mitigation that the defendant had already suffered a fall from grace ' by his own fault ' while his offer of €8,000 was a genuine expression of remorse.

Judge Martin directed that as far as possible the victims should be reimbursed from this money with any remaining money divided equally between the Laura Lynn Foundation and Barreststown.

The judge imposed a sentence of three years on one of the corruption charges and a concurrent term of three years and six months on one of the deception charges.

Judge Martin suspended the final six months of the sentence and marked the other 87 charges taken into consideration.