A SENIOR member of the Garda Traffic Corps avoided a criminal conviction for road traffic offences this week after a court was told he has paid €3,500 to charity.
Garda Michael O’Shaughnessy, who is based at Henry Street garda station in the city, was ordered to make a contribution to St Vincent de Paul after he was prosecuted for driving without an NCT or Tax on separate dates last year.
Following a contested hearing, which was heard in September, Judge Eugene O’Kelly said he was finding the “facts proven” but he indicated he would not record a conviction if Garda O’Shaughnessy made a contribution to the Court Poor Box.
Before finalising the case, Judge O’Kelly described Garda O’Shaughnessy’s occupation as “a distinguishing feature” in a case which, he noted, had attracted considerable attention from the national media.
He commented that Garda O’Shaughnessy, who has an exemplary record, had been “embarrassed, humiliated and ridiculed,” when most people who appear before the courts for similar offences “could expect total anonymity or, at worst local notoriety”.
Solicitor Dan O’Gorman said his client’s home was vandalised with graffiti during an “appalling incident” following his last court appearance.
Mr O’Gorman asked that Garda O’ Shaughnessy’s address in West Limerick where he lives with his wife and family not be published again.
“It is my honest belief, that he has suffered enough,” he said.
Having viewed photographs of the grafitti, Judge O’Kelly described it as “obscene and vulgar” and he asked the media to exercise discretion about publishing Garda’s O’Shaughnessy’s address.
The judge said the garda was a highly experienced member of the Traffic Corps in Limerick and “as such has a responsibility to enforce compliance with the very laws that he has been found in breach of”.
He said members of the public may have little sympathy for Garda O’Shaughnessy and that some people might even consider that his actions were borne out of an arrogance which had its origins in the nature of his employment.
However, he said as a judge he must consider the matter in a more reasonable way.
He said Garda O’Shaughnessy’s omissions “may not be the result of arrogance and a misguided belief that he was above the law, but may have been to do with casual carelessness or temporary financial pressure”.
He said people find themselves in similar situations all the time and very often for a first offence they receive a “gentle but firm” warning from the detecting garda to “put their house in order”.
The judge said such an opportunity was not afforded to Garda O’Shaughnessy
He said he accepted the financial penalty imposed by the court was “severe if not excessive” and he said it was “intentionally disproportionate” to the penalty which other persons can expect to receive.
He said Garda O’Shaughnessy, had been punished financially and he struck out the charges.