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08 Aug 2022

General election candidate convicted for not making returns

Prosecution by Standards in Public Office Commission

Carrick-on-Shannon District Court hears motorcyclist cleared of careless driving  “very lucky to be with us”

Carrick-on-Shannon courthouse

A candidate in the 2020 general election who failed to make various returns to the Standards in Public Office Commission within a specified time after the election was convicted of two offences at Carrick-on-Shannon District Court.

Oisin O’Dwyer, 28 Hillcrest Grove, Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, a candidate for the Renua party, pleaded guilty to two offences, namely, that on April 5, 2020, having been an unsuccessful candidate in the general election held on February 8, 2020, he failed to furnish to the Standards in Public Office Commission within 56 days after the polling day a written statement containing information setting out details of donations received; and failed to furnish details of election expenses and make a statutory declaration that all was true and accurate, as required by Section 36 (1)(a) and Section 24(2)(a) respectively of the Electoral Act 1997.

The court heard that candidates are mandated by law to make the returns outlined.

Ray Butler, a higher executive officer in the Standards in Public Office Commission, explained that he wrote to all returning officers on February 3, 2020, for contact details of candidates. Each candidate was emailed outlining the guidelines and their obligations. Forms were to be completed and returned but there was no record of a response from Mr O’Dwyer.

On March 12, 2020, a further email was sent to all candidates and election agents notifying them of the deadline of April 4 and that returns should be submitted by email or post. Again there was no record of a response from Mr O’Dwyer.

Further emails were sent with a final reminder on July 9, 2020, that if no returns were received a file would be sent to the DPP.

In March 2021, Mr O’Dwyer contacted the office and asked for forms to be sent to him by post which was done.

It was put to Mr Butler by Peter Collins, solicitor, that Mr O’Dwyer was told that if he got the forms back within a week there would be no prosecution.

Mr Butler said there was no authority for anyone to say that and the file was with the DPP at that stage.

Mr Collins said that Mr O’Dwyer accepted he didn’t make the returns on time but they were made, albeit late, and they were compliant.

He said the returns were never acknowledged by the office.

Oisin O’Dwyer explained that he lost access to his email account and got logged out and couldn’t get back in. He said his email was down from approximately September to December 2020.

He said he had set up a different email account at home to deal with his children’s online video games.

He said he did find the forms in his office and returned them. Mr O’Dwyer said he didn’t have any finances to claim and didn’t get any money donated to him.

He also said he didn’t get any acknowledgement after sending in the forms and then received a summons.

Mr O’Dwyer admitted in court that the election “didn’t go well” for him.

Noel Farrell, State Solicitor, prosecuting, said to Mr O’Dwyer that the relevant emails had been sent to him long before his email had gone down.

Judge Sandra Murphy said Mr O’Dwyer was saying one thing and the evidence was showing another thing.

“It seems that the Standards in Public Office Commission did what they had to do and you didn’t do what you were supposed to do,” she said.

She convicted and fined Mr O’Dwyer €250 on the first named offence, allowing three months to pay, and convicted and took into consideration the second offence.

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