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Thursday 21 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
# Joseph O'Connor
Former garda fined €3,000 after leaking personal information he obtained from Pulse system
Judge Michael Walsh said the guilty man ‘effectively wrote his own P45′.

A FORMER DUBLIN-based garda, who “effectively wrote his own P45” when he leaked highly-sensitive personal information, has been fined €3,000.

Joseph O’Connor, 38, from Morrell Grove, Naas, Kildare, pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to three counts of illegally disclosing information on three private individuals to others contrary to the Data Protection Act.

The court heard that one of the data breaches was in connection with a road traffic accident and the offences involved information held on the Garda Pulse systemwhich Judge Michael Walsh warned should only be used by officers in the course of their normal duties.

O’Connor, who had been a member of the force for 11 years, had pleaded guilty on 11 July and the case had been adjourned until today for sentencing. He was prosecuted following a probe by Superintendent George Kyne of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Finalising the case, Judge Michael Walsh said the accused was before the court for offences committed between 20 February and 22 February 2013, 11 June and 16 June 2011 and 5 June and 7 June 2012.

He said the accused had without authority obtained information on three named people and disclosed it to three other people.

He noted that the accused had pleaded guilty on 11 July when he was first charged. The Director of Public Prosecutions had held that the case should only remain in the district court subject to a guilty plea being entered. He had accepted jurisdiction and noted the information disclosed between 20 February and 22 February 2013 was sensitive and related to a road traffic accident.

In one of the other incidents, information was disclosed to an individual about another man known to him, he said. Judge Walsh remarked that the data breach in 2012 also involved “highly sensitive information”.

He said gardaí must comply with data protection legislation, and information on individuals must only be used by officers “in the normal course of their function”. He was satisfied O’Connor had breached the Data Protection Act and the code of practice of An Garda Síochána.

He described the charges as “particularly serious offences” and when he became a garda, O’Connor would have taken an oath to carry out his duties with integrity.

He said he was convicting him and added that he had taken into account extensive pleas on O’Connor’s behalf.

He noted O’Connor, who was represented by solicitor Liz Hughes, was of previous good character and had an unblemished record. He said that in carrying out the offences he had effectively terminated his own employment, “effectively wrote his own P455” and he failed to act in accordance with protocols.

He noted the man has tendered his resignation which saved the expense of disciplinary proceedings and possible termination.

O’Connor had lost his career and had co-operated fully with the enquiry, the judge said and he noted it appears the 38-year-old did not benefit from the disclosures. He also noted from the evidence of Superintendent Kyne that the offences did not cause damage or anxiety to the parties involved and the accused comes from a good family with a long history of public service.

He imposed fines of €750, €1,000 and €1,250 in respect of the three offences.

The charges could not have attracted a jail term. The maximum fine that could be imposed in the District Court is €3,000 per offence or a total of €9,000 for the three offences.

Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney was at the court to observe the proceedings today.

Speaking afterwards he said: “I welcome the convictions and fines which were imposed today. They send out a strong signal to members of An Garda Síochána and to public servants generally that they will face serious consequences for unlawfully accessing and disclosing personal data which is made available to them in their workplaces solely for the purposes of their official duties.

“I also welcome the fact that this prosecution was brought by An Garda Síochána against one of its own members and I believe that this underlines the seriousness that An Garda Síochána attaches to breaches of data protection law within its ranks.”

Read: Residents who claimed their properties were damaged by children’s hospital construction settle case

Read: Man stranded for 12 hours on a boat because he ‘didn’t want to put anyone out’

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