Policeman gets jail for taking bribes

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The Independent Online
A GARDA who took pounds 16,000 in bribes from members of the gang alleged to have killed Dublin crime journalist Veronica Guerin was jailed for four and a half years by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, writes Alan Murdoch in Dublin.

John O'Neill, 34, had admitted taking the money on dates between November 1995 and October 1996. He resigned from the force after his arrest in 1996.

The court heard the handover of some bribes was recorded by the gang on video and was given for future favours. Det Insp Tom O'Loughlin stressed O'Neill was never in a position to obtain high-level data.

In a statement, O'Neill revealed he took bribes of pounds 100 to pounds 5,000. They were paid in an attempt to obtain intelligence about investigations into a major Dublin drugs gang.

Two men accused of handing over the payments, Derek O'Driscoll, 24, and Anthony Long, 42, were each fined pounds 50,000. A third, Patrick Ward, charged with making a pounds 100 payment, was put on probation.

O'Neill, 34, who has three young children, had accumulated debts of pounds 100,000 and was unable to manage his finances, the court heard. His debts were so large his net weekly earnings after repayments were just pounds 8. In 1990 he won the top bravery award, the Scott Medal, after taking a shotgun from an armed robber.

A uniformed garda mainly involved in prosecuting traffic offences, O'Neill had joined the force in 1985. He is the first member of the force since its inception in 1922 to be convicted of bribery and corruption charges.