Former garda jailed for stealing over €50k

Tuesday 15 July 2014 19.51
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Fitzhenry had served over 20 years as a member of the gardaí
Fitzhenry had served over 20 years as a member of the gardaí
The case was heard by Judge Barry Hickson at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court
The case was heard by Judge Barry Hickson at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court

A former garda has been sent to jail for a year for stealing more than €50,000 after he got into financial difficulties with a large mortgage.

Noel Fitzhenry from Rathnure in Co Wexford had pleaded guilty to the theft of more than €50,000 between 2009 and 2012 while serving as a garda.

He was sentenced to two years in prison with one year suspended.

He was arrested and interviewed on 25 February 2013.

The 46-year-old was stationed at Glynn Garda Station and resigned from the force on 5 July.

He pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft involving a number of local people in the Glynn community between 2009 and 2012, including €8,000 from local Killurin publican Declan Roche, €19,400 from Joseph Moran of Ballyhogue, and €10,000 from David Dempsey, a company director from Killurin.

He was further charged with receiving €10,000 from Mr Dempsey; a cheque from publican Ciaran Corish, which was not cashed, €1,000 from Jim Meyler, a local farmer, and €2,800 worth of property from Mr Moran, which had been handed over to Fitzhenry following an accident he had investigated but he had not returned.

Supt William Carolan informed Judge Barry Hickson at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court that Fitzhenry had indicated he needed €180,000 for treatment in the United States for his wife, whom he said was suffering from cancer.

Supt Carolan said the money was lodged and quickly removed from Fitzhenry's account through an ATM or through withdrawals.

None of the money has been returned.

Fitzhenry had served over 20 years as a member of the gardaí, and had previously been stationed in Dundalk and Wexford, before serving in the garda station in Glynn, just outside Wexford town.

Fitzhenry is married with four children.

Supt Carolan said it was never discovered what the money was was actually used for. 

He also said Fitzhenry's wife never had cancer, continued working, and never went to the US.

The court heard Fitzhenry was known in GAA circles as he was an inter-county GAA footballer, came from a well-known GAA family and would have been highly regarded and liked in the area.

Defence Counsel, John Walsh, BL, said the money was not for a lavish lifestyle.

The family got into financial difficulties, while at one stage they owned two houses, now taken by financial institutions, and they currently live in rented accommodation.

Supt Carolan said Fitzhenry was suspended from the gardaí on 23 November 2012, and resigned on 5 July this year.

Mr Walsh said it was a sad day for Fitzhenry and the superintendent. 

When Fitzhenry was building two houses he had a total mortgage of €400,000, while the money obtained from neighbours was used to discharge everyday bills.

He also said Fitzhenry had been hospitalised a number of times since due to his mental condition, adding that his net income from work was €28 per week when all the deductions were made.

Fitzhenry has no previous convictions.

Mr Walsh also said Fitzhenry, in the course of his duty, had dealt with accidents and suicides, along with many more such incidents.

One incident that had a particular affect on him was being one of the gardaí who opened a container, which had arrived on a ferry at Rosslare, that had people suffocating inside.

He also said Fitzhenry had been in hospital on several occasions relating to his mental condition in what has been a stressful time for his wife and family.

Fitzhenry, he said, is also back coaching in his local GAA club.

While Supt Carolan said he is absolutely sure it would not happen again, Mr Walsh said all of this went on over a period of time with the financial difficulties happening alongside.

The court heard there is no route back for him into the gardaí, which will also have a very negative impact when trying to secure employment in the future.

Mr Walsh said Fitzhenry and his wife found themselves in significant financial difficulty.

He cannot explain why he did what he did, but it was borne out of depression when he could not pay his bills.

When it had become public it became a matter of great seriousness and it was clear that Fitzhenry's job was going to be on the line.

The common theme running through the various reports, said Mr Walsh, was the change in his mental state through stress and work-related stress, and having to live on a net income of €28 per month.

The defence said Fitzhenry came before the court having lost almost everything.

Members of his family have put together €7,500, the distribution of which was a matter for the court.

Mr Walsh said if Fitzhenry was spared a custodial sentence every effort would be made to have more monies available.

Judge Hickson said the offences went on over a period of three years where he stole money from people who were friendly with him and who admired him.

The judge sad he had read the medical reports, but as a consequence of his involvement it had been a calamity for the Fitzhenry family.

He said Fitzhenry is not alone in falling into financial difficulties in Ireland, but like many an Irishman he lived beyond his means.

However, he said he would have to take into account that he was in a special position in Irish society, one of the most respected positions. 

Being a garda is a very trusted individual and so it should be, the judge said.

He said Fitzhenry told the people a tale of tragedy concerning his wife.

He conned decent people that even included a 94-year-old man, Judge Hickson said.

He embarked on a nasty and mean trail, he betrayed the trust in him and there is no hope of him giving the money back.

Judge Hickson sentenced him to two years in prison on each of the first three counts, the sentences to run concurrently.

However, he suspended one year on each count. He entered a nolle prosequi on the remaining counts.