A former civilian employee of An Garda Siochana has been handed a prison sentence for forwarding photos of information on the Pulse system to an individual known to gardai.
Lauryn McCann (23) sent around 70 photos using WhatsApp over a seven-day period to an individual referred to as “R”, who is known to gardaí.
McCann of Ministers Park, Lusk, Co. Dublin pleaded guilty to a count of corruptly agreeing to accept an inducement to access garda intelligence and a count of obtaining and disclosing garda intelligence files to a third party on dates in May 2020.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Friday that McCann has no previous convictions and was sent forward from the District Court on signed pleas.
Imposing sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said “people working for institutions such as An Garda Siochana have to be discreet and respect the rules”.
Judge Nolan said this included not sharing information or knowledge they gain of in the course of their work.
McCann's behaviour was “far worse” as she had searched the Pulse system for information that was useful to a third party, he said, handing the accused a sentence of two and a half years.
The investigating garda told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that McCann was working as a civilian call taker for An Garda Siochana with access to the Pulse system at the time of this incident.
Gardaí received a tip-off on May 15th, 2020, that McCann was providing information to a third party.
McCann was not working the following day and gardaí launched an investigation, which included a search of the Pulse system.
McCann's search history showed she had accessed a large number of files that she would have had no reason to search in the course of her work.
When McCann arrived to work on May 17th, 2020, she was confronted by investigating gardai and was fully cooperative, admitting that she had taken photos of information from the Pulse system.
She said that she had forwarded these photos to third parties using Snapchat and WhatsApp. McCann was suspended and later resigned.
Gardaí also obtained warrants to search McCann's workstation and other locations.
A number of exhibits were handed to the court including copies of the photos taken by McCann, and her messages with a third party, listed in her phone as “R”.
These messages were sent over a time span of one week between May 10th and May 17th. Around 70 photos were forwarded by McCann to “R”.
McCann took photos of a conviction record which relates to “R” and of another individual's custody photo. She also sent photos containing information about a confidential garda source. Images were also taken of a file relating to R's brother.
The prosecuting garda told the court that it appears McCann was directed by third parties to search for certain individuals. While the Pulse system shows the user's log-in details onscreen, this information was edited out of some of the images sent via WhatsApp by McCann.
Messages sent by McCann via Snapchat could not be retrieved by gardaí.
When interviewed, McCann told gardaí that “word of mouth” got around that she was working for the gardaí and “people took advantage”. McCann did not name any individuals due to concerns that it would cause trouble for herself or her family.
The investigating garda told the court that messages between “R” and McCann appear to suggest that she was offered €500 to provide information about R's brother.
McCann told gardaí she was experiencing financial difficulties and was offered €3,000 which she never received.
Over 400 photos of information from the Pulse system were found on McCann's phone, but gardaí could not say that all of these photos were forwarded to third parties.
Mr Berry told the court that gardai carried out a number of searches after this incident came to light.
These searches included a property relating to “R”, where an individual attempted to flush a phone down a toilet.
While no information could be retrieved from the phone, gardai were able to confirm that the number matched that listed for “R” in McCann's phone.
The investigating garda agreed with Seamus Clarke SC, defending, that his client had worked for the gardai for 11 months, in what was her first full-time job after completing her Leaving Certificate.
McCann had been living with her boyfriend, who shared where she worked with others.
The investigating garda also agreed with Mr Clarke that his client’s signed pleas were of value given the sensitive nature of the garda information involved.
Mr Clarke said his client's resignation also meant that an internal disciplinary process was not required. She secured alternative work.
Outlining the mitigating factors, Mr Clarke noted that his client had entered an early guilty plea and fully co-operated with gardaí.
McCann was living with her boyfriend at the time, following family difficulties and began taking drugs. She was “somewhat naive” and made “no great effort” to cover up her actions, which were easily detected by gardaí, Mr Clarke added.
A psychological report was also handed to the court, which outlined that McCann has depression and is considered “psychologically vulnerable” and at low risk of re-offending.
Mr Clarke said his client is remorseful and ashamed of her actions. He asked Judge Nolan to consider suspending part of any sentence imposed as his client was “very young” at the time of her offending.
Judge Nolan said this was a “serious crime”. McCann must have been aware why garda information would have been of interest to third parties and that it could be “highly dangerous” to give this information.
Judge Nolan said a breach of garda systems affects the reputation of An Garda Siochana.
He imposed a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence on the corruption count, with the second charge taken into consideration.