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Former Garda probation officer not convicted of falsifying witness statements

A former Garda probation officer has avoided conviction despite pleading guilty to falsifying a witness statement in an alleged assault case.

Dearbhla Gilhooley (32), of Athlumney Castle, Navan, County Meath, was accused of making a false statement between March 6 and April 10, 2022, claiming that a named person had withdrawn her assault complaint , even though she hadn’t done so. She pleaded guilty through her lawyer Damien Coffey.

Sergeant Peter Clarke told Trim District Court that Ms Gilhooley was called to the scene of an alleged assault on two neighbours. She took an oral statement from the alleged victim, but delayed processing the complaint and ultimately found that the case was time-barred.

He said she then visited the alleged victim at home and got her to sign a blank C8 form, a pre-printed document for witness statements.

Ms Gilhooley then went back to Navan Garda station and gave a false statement saying the alleged victim withdrew her complaint, when in fact she had not done so.

There was no connection between Garda and the alleged perpetrator of the attack, the court heard.

Mr Coffey told Judge Cormac Dunne that at the time of the offense his client was a Garda probation officer with “relatively limited experience”.

He said she worked in a station that was “overworked and understaffed” at the time, but also in an atmosphere where there was “zero tolerance” for the type of behavior described in court.

“She made a serious error in judgment,” Mr Coffey said, adding that it was a very unfortunate situation and Gilhooley had resigned from the force.

Mr Coffey said his client had cooperated fully with the investigation and admitted what she had done. She has now started further training and hopes to get a job, he added.

Judge Dunne said Gilhooley felt compelled by fear and anxiety to commit to a particular course of action in an atmosphere of zero tolerance, exacerbated by the fact of her probation status.

He said there was a clear public interest in maintaining the integrity of An Garda Síochána as a public body and that the integrity of each Garda should be beyond reproach.

However, he said judges sometimes have to be “trapeze artists” to balance the interests of the law but also the interests of justice. He denied the charges against Ms Gilhooley and asked her to make a €1,000 donation to the Meath Women’s Refuge.

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