A YALE graduate and a rugby team vice-captain have each been fined €200 after they sat each other’s Leaving Certificate physics exam four years ago.
Conor Dooney (22), described in court as a gifted student, sat Stephen Boucher’s (22) higher-level physics paper after using his friend’s student number because Boucher wanted the extra points for a marketing degree course.
Boucher later got 20 points more than he needed for the course in Dublin Institute of Technology on Aungier Street, meaning Dooney’s points were of no benefit to him.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the students were caught out after their physics teacher heard rumours that they had sat each other’s exam. She reported it to the principal after noting that Dooney got a C in his paper when she expected him to get an A.
Garda Joanne Holahan told barrister Tara Burns (prosecuting), that the students’ English exams were then compared to their physics exams. The scripts were later sent to a handwriting expert at the Garda Technical Bureau and compared with other samples of the students’ handwriting.
Dooney, of Northumberland Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, and Boucher, of Old Bray Road, Foxrock, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to impersonating each other during the exam at Christian Brothers College in Monkstown on June 16th, 2008.
Judge Desmond Hogan said it was a serious matter on the face of it, but added, “looking at it from the best point of view, their judgment got severely clouded arising because one felt a sense that he would underachieve and the other felt he should help out a friend”. He was told by Ms Burns that the maximum penalty available to the court was a two-year jail term and/or a fine up to €5,000. But the judge said he felt “a custodial sentence would be disproportionate”.
“They were very stupid but that is the height of it,” said the judge, adding that he did not want a conviction to inhibit either man’s potential future career.
He said he was “not a little influenced by testimonials and references” handed in on their behalf.
The judge also noted that the institutions from which they subsequently “obtained high academic achievement” also supplied references in the knowledge that they had committed this crime.
Garda Holahan agreed that neither Dooney nor Boucher had any previous convictions and both came from decent hard-working families. She further agreed with Patrick Gageby SC, defending Dooney, that his client had basically gifted Boucher with better marks than he otherwise would have got and “took a hit for his Leaving Certificate result”.
Barrister Justin McQuade, defending Boucher, said his client has since completed the marketing degree at DIT and obtained a 2.1. He said his client was vice-captain for the first team at Seapoint Rugby Club and was working during the summer as a coach in his former secondary school.
James Finnegan, an Irish teacher from the school, told Mr Gageby that Dooney had been a popular student who had been well liked by his classmates. He said he introduced Dooney to cross-country running and track and field at quite a young age and he had great athletic ability.
Mr Finnegan said that Dooney qualified for the Leinster championships after he ran the race with a broken collar bone. He ran for his country a couple of months later. Mr Finnegan confirmed that Dooney received a degree from Yale after he was awarded an athletic scholarship to attend there.
Mr Gageby told the judge his client was a “man on the cusp of a career” and had agreed to sit Boucher’s paper because of “a misguided sense of friendship”.