Home Knowledge Insider Dealing: Sentence Imposed Following First Conviction in Ireland

Insider Dealing: Sentence Imposed Following First Conviction in Ireland

In October 2023, Declan Service became the first person to be convicted for insider dealing under Irish law, after pleading guilty to an offence under Regulation 5 of the European Union (Market Abuse) Regulations 2016 ( Market Abuse Regulations) and s1368 of the Companies Act 2014 (Companies Act).

We previously examined insider dealing under Irish law in our article here.

Sentencing Hearing

Following Mr Service’s conviction, a sentencing hearing took place on 22 December 2023 before Judge Elma Sheahan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.  Mr Service faced a maximum sentence of a €10,000,000 fine and/or ten years imprisonment.

Particulars of the circumstances constituting the offence were given to the Court and reported in the media.  The Court heard that in May 2020 Open Orphan, an Irish pharmaceutical company, invited its shareholders, Declan Service among them, to a zoom presentation where it outlined plans to sell additional shares at a discounted rate. Those present at the presentation were informed of the market sensitivity of the information and shareholders were prohibited from trading shares until the information became publicly available.

The next day, Mr Service instructed his broker to sell his full shareholding, valued at approximately £566,000.

After selling his shares, Mr Service proceeded to buy shares at the discounted rate through a different broker, (although reportedly due to the shares’ popularity, he was only able to purchase £50,000 worth, instead of the £566,000 worth originally requested). The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) was notified of the transactions by the brokers.  The CBI estimated that Mr Service made a profit of approximately £11,500. A report was created by the CBI and sent to the Gardaí.

Mitigating Factors

While noting the seriousness of the offence, Judge Sheahan took into account several mitigating factors offered on behalf of Mr Service.  These factors included his guilty plea, his full cooperation with the Gardaí, and his previous good character.   Other evidence offered in mitigation included Mr Service’s role as a carer for adults with learning disabilities, his charitable and voluntary work, his medical condition, and mental health difficulties.


At the December 2023 hearing, Judge Sheahan imposed a fine of £60,000 (€69,933) on Mr Service.  The Judge also indicated a potential prison sentence of two and a half years, reduced to 18 months, and adjourned the case to allow her to review the sentence.  The matter returned to court on 22 March 2024, and Judge Sheahan confirmed the fine and suspended the 18-month prison sentence.


The Judicial Council’s Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee published “Sentencing Judgment Guidance” in 2022 in respect of some offences. Offences for insider dealing are not covered in the Guidelines. This, coupled with the fact that Mr Service was the first person convicted under Irish law for criminal insider trading, makes the sentence notable.

Several factors were specifically referenced by Judge Sheahan in passing sentence, as set out above.  Two points are of particular importance; the characterisation of the offence committed by Mr Service by Judge Sheahan as falling in the lower range of seriousness; and his guilty plea, thereby removing the need for a potentially protracted and complex trial.

Significant penalties can be imposed on those who engage in insider dealing. The comments of Judge Sheahan on the seriousness of the offence reflect the courts’ view of criminal prosecutions for insider dealing.  Although not at issue in this case, it is also of note that in addition to criminal prosecution, civil liability for insider dealing can be imposed under section 1369 of the Companies Act.

If you have any questions on insider dealing, or any other aspect of Irish market abuse law, please reach out to Paul Convery, Laura Murdock, or your usual William Fry contact.


Contributed by Róisín Casey