A judge has indicated he may impose a community service order in lieu of a jail sentence on three-time All-Ireland winning Limerick hurler Pat Ryan, who was convicted of perjury earlier this year.
On Monday, defence solicitor John Hebert, for Ryan (28), from Doon, Co Limerick, appealed the “severity” of a two-week jail sentence imposed on Ryan last March, regarding perjury committed during criminal proceedings in October 2020 in which Ryan was then accused of speeding.
During the October 2020 hearing before Limerick District Court, Ryan falsely told the court he did not receive a summons for the speeding offence. Gardaí who were acting on a separate investigation later discovered a photograph of the speeding summons sent from Ryan’s mobile phone to a third party, as well as text messages exchanged between the two phones.
Mr Herbert asked the presiding judge Mr Justice Tom O’Donnell, to consider “removing” the two-week jail term, which was imposed on Ryan by Judge Patricia Harney at Limerick District Court, on March 28th this year. Sentencing Ryan last March, Judge Harney said he had “told a brazen lie in the face of this court, that the “whole criminal justice system is based on truth given to the courts”, and that he was “facing very very serious trouble”.
On Monday, Mr Herbert argued that Ryan had been ignorant of the law and courts and the serious consequences of convictions for offences such as “falsehoods, telling lies, or deceit”.
Ryan went into the October 2020 hearing “without taking any legal advice, and had he [Ryan] sought legal advice from a practitioner, he would have been apprised of all of these things, and that there was ways of working around these things”.
Mr Hebert added that a jail sentence would have “life-changing” consequences for Ryan who at the time of committing the offence was “an elite athlete in an elite team, a hurling team which we now know is one of the most successful hurling teams in the country”.
Outlining the facts, State Solicitor for Limerick, Pádraig Mawe, said gardaí detected Ryan exceeding the national roads speed limit at Dooradoyle, Limerick, on November 14th, 2018. A fixed charge penalty notice was issued by the prosecuting garda and it was posted to Ryan’s home address four days later.
“That fixed charge penalty notice remained unpaid and triggered the automatic issuing of a summons.”
When the matter went before Limerick District Court on May 28th, 2019, it was “struck out” after the court heard the summons had not been served on Ryan.
Mr Mawe explained that fixed charge penalty notices can be reissued within six months of an offence: “The prosecuting garda applied to reissue the summons and it was reissued again on the September 13th, 2019″.
The speeding summons went back before Limerick District Court Court on April 24th, 2020, and adjourned to October 21st, 2020, when Ryan tried to escape a conviction by committing perjury, stating under oath that he had not received the fixed charge penalty notice.
Det Gda Darren John Swan, Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (GNBCI), agreed with Mr Mawe that a photograph of the original speeding summons was unearthed during “other separate investigations” after gardaí “obtained a mobile phone”.
During an analysis of the mobile phone gardaí discovered Ryan had sent a copy of the photograph to a third party a year before the perjury. An “exchange or conversation of messages” were also unearthed by gardaí from their analysis of the mobile phone.
Mr Mawe said Ryan had been “looking for assistance” from a third party, who was not identified in court.
Ryan had one previous conviction for holding a mobile phone while driving a vehicle, but he was regarded as “generally of good character with no real previous convictions of note”, Mr Mawe added.
Appealing for leniency for Ryan, Mr Herbert said the defendant had given sworn testimony in 2020 perjury hearing “without having taken legal advice” beforehand, and “believing certain beliefs in his head about certain things”.
“He had never been in a court before, the immediacy of the potential loss of his driver’s license and perhaps the loss of his job clouded his judgment,” added Mr Herbert.
Judge Tom O’Donnell said: “Perjury is a very serious matter, which strikes at the very heart of the administration of justice”.
The judge said Limerick senior hurlers were regarded as “role models for the generation to come” and that it was “disappointing” that one of the team’s former All Ireland winning members was now facing a possible jail sentence.
He said Ryan had done “wrong” by going “into the witness box, taking up a bible and taking an oath and telling an untruth, and that’s very disappointing in itself”.
Adjourning his decision to July 25th, the judge directed the probation service and Ryan liaise with one another, “and if 100 hours of voluntary work can be found between this and then” he would “factor that in” to his final judgment.
“However, I want it to be clearly understood I’m keeping my options open, I’m not formally making a community service order but I am thinking along those particular lines. This is the first time I have come across an offence of this nature in this court, and I sincerely hope it will be the last time.”