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Garda jailed over theft of cannabis evidence from station

A Dublin garda who was drunk when she sent her partner a picture of drugs and a text message saying, “baby, I got you this”, has been given six months in jail for stealing a €70 cannabis exhibit from her station.

Garda Holly Lane, 34, denied theft of the cannabis evidence seized by another officer, unlawful possession of the cannabis and having it for sale or supply at Store Street station on 12 December 2021.

However, Judge John Hughes found her guilty this evening following a non-jury trial at Dublin District Court.

He imposed a nine-month sentence but suspended the final three months on condition she remained on supervised probation for two years and attended counselling for alcohol and drug addiction.

Lane had been suspended since the date of the incident, and her Garda career is over, her barrister said.

Garda Sergeant Coleen Doherty told the hearing she had been the station officer in charge on the date, and Garda Lane’s shift started at 7pm.

However, by 1.30am she had not seen Lane for several hours and went to seek her out. Garda Peter Byrne in the community policing office told her Lane was “unsteady on her feet”.

Sergeant Doherty grew concerned and searched for Lane with Garda Sergeant Niall Godfrey.

She was found in the second-floor changing room “dishevelled looking”, and her tie and shoes were wet.

Sergeant Doherty believed that Lane was intoxicated from the way she presented and spoke to her.

They brought her to the TV room, and Sergeant Godfrey and Doherty looked for her bag to get her car keys after they decided she would have to be brought home.

But they found a half bottle of vodka in her bag and a quarter bottle of vodka in her changing-room locker. Lane told them she had taken a “sip” and insisted she was not intoxicated.

Lane did not testify in the trial but gave a prepared statement to Garda HQ investigators

She thought her car keys were in a folder in the community office where she had worked earlier.

Sergeant Doherty went there, saw her folder on a desk, and then located her bag, which she opened. There was a white plastic bag inside and a “strong smell of cannabis from that”.

The sergeant was later shown a screenshot posted by Lane to a work WhatsApp group. It featured an image and text saying, “Look what I got for you”.

Sergeant Doherty was concerned the image was of the bag of cannabis, and it may have been a drug supply offence.

Sergeant Godfrey confirmed she was drunk and said Lane was “banging into walls”.

Garda Philip Walsh had seized the cannabis earlier that month and was unable to place it in the usual drug safe because a printer was not working to label the package. He put it in his own locker with a file on top in the community policing office. But on the day of the offence, he noticed some rummaging in his locker.

The court heard that the contents of another locker were emptied on the floor.

Lane did not testify in the trial but gave a prepared statement to Garda HQ investigators that she had been in the office to work on files for two drug prosecutions.

She had white “baggies”, digital weighing scales, and grinders to prepare exhibits.

She claimed she did not have enough bags but saw some more in a locker and took them out. Lane claimed other items “fell” out.

She admitted that after two hours, she went to the female changing rooms and had some vodka because she had developed severe addiction issues due to stress and being overwhelmed at the time. She told gardaí it was the second time she consumed alcohol while on duty.

Lane maintained that she returned and saw the cannabis on the desk and did not take it.

She tried to convince gardaí that she had taken anti-anxiety medication, which exacerbated the effects of the alcohol.

Lane said the text message was a joke in bad taste.

The court heard it said, “Baby, I got you this,” and went into her work WhatsApp group in error, but there was a light-hearted reply.

However, the judge also heard that she told one of her colleagues she had meant to send the message to her girlfriend.

However, Judge Hughes did not accept her account.

He noted testimonials and pleas for leniency from defence barrister David Staunton that she came from a good family, had attended treatment for her mental health and had been sober for a year.

Sentencing, the judge said that Lane was in a significant position of trust and power as a garda.

He set appeal bail at €500 if she wants to challenge the verdict or sentence.

The judge also dismissed a charge for criminal damage to another locker in the station due to lack of evidence.

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