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Saturday 24 August 2019

Garda who harassed State solicitor has rest of jail term suspended

Eve Doherty has served 20 months of a three-year sentence
Eve Doherty has served 20 months of a three-year sentence

A detective garda jailed for harassing a State solicitor by sending abusive letters is to walk free from prison following a successful sentence appeal.

Eve Doherty (51), with an address at Blackglen Road, Sandyford, in Dublin, had the balance of her three-year sentence suspended yesterday by the Court of Appeal.

Her 2017 trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that over an 18-month period, letters and emails were sent to the home and place of work of State solicitor Elizabeth Howlin.

In these, she called Ms Howlin "corrupt", an "incompetent useless hobbit" and a "two-faced bitch".

At the time, Ms Howlin worked with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). There she was involved in deciding whether or not to direct prosecutions in criminal cases.

Doherty held the position of detective sergeant and worked in the crime and security division of An Garda Siochana.

Relationship

The court heard that Ms Howlin didn't know Doherty until the trial and that Doherty was then in a relationship with Ms Howlin's ex-partner.

Doherty was found guilty by a jury of harassing Ms Howlin between September 2011 and March 2013. She had denied the charge and was acquitted on two counts of making false statements.

Sentencing Doherty to three years' imprisonment in January 2018, Judge Melanie Greally said the communications by Doherty contained outright and "scurrilous" lies.

They contained statements which were variously disparaging, insulting and offensive, both from a personal and professional manner.

Judge Greally noted that Doherty showed no remorse and had not acknowledged her wrongdoing.

Suspending the unserved balance of her 36-month sentence yesterday, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Doherty's first 12 months in custody were "exceptionally difficult".

As a female first-time offender of previous good character, Mr Justice Birmingham said she had served 20 months in a secure environment, the Dochas women's prison in Dublin.

He said experience had shown that first-time offenders of previous good character, who were male, might be expected to serve a significant portion of their sentence in an open prison. But no such facility existed in the State for women, the court heard.

Doherty's barrister, Michael O'Higgins SC, referred to his client's accomplishments in her career and the recognised difficulty gardai face when serving prison sentences.

He said the absence of an acknowledgment of wrongdoing should not "set at nought" other factors that were in Doherty's favour.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the sentencing judge ought to have considered suspending a portion of Doherty's sentence to incentivise her to not to reoffend.

He said the decision to impose a straight three-year sentence, without any suspended element, was an error in principle.

Mr Justice Birmingham said a psychologist's report, which detailed the "extent of paranoia and irrationality" exhibited by Doherty, was "very striking".

The court heard that although she co-operated with an assessment carried out by the probation service, she continues to maintain her innocence.

She has been suspended from An Garda Siochana and her salary has been "terminated", Mr O'Higgins told the court.

Conditions

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would suspend the balance of Doherty's sentence on condition she not contact directly or indirectly the injured party or with third parties or five years. Doherty undertook to be so bound.

In an unsuccessful appeal of her conviction, Doherty's lawyers argued that evidence had been unlawfully obtained under the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011.

However, the Court of Appeal said the data that was retained was not Doherty's personal data and, therefore, her rights were not breached.

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