18-year-old facing 25 charges who robbed Timahoe autism unit gets longer jail term

Offences including assaults and burglary so serious should never have been in district court, says judge

18-year-old facing 25 charges who robbed Timahoe autism unit gets longer jail term

An 18-year-old Laois man convicted of numerous offences including vicious assaults, criminal damage, and stealing a special television set used in an autism unit for children, had prison sentences increased at Portlaoise Circuit Court.

“For a man of his young years these cases are as bad as I’ve ever seen,” said Judge Keenan Johnson, of Remi Hamisi (18), with an address listed in Portarlington.

Hamisi appeared at the recent circuit court to appeal two six month sentences, consecutive, and one six month sentence, concurrent, that he received in the district court.

However, his barrister, Mr Colm Hennessy, told the court that his client wished to withdraw the appeal.

To this, State solicitor, Mr Donal Dunne, said that the gardaí wished to give evidence in the case. A number of injured parties were present in court on the day.

Sgt JJ Kirby told the circuit court there were 25 charges against the accused.

On July 13, 2015, at Foxcroft Street, Portarlington, two men were assaulted, with one man receiving a punch to the face that left him with a broken nose and a fracture.

On July 31, 2015, an injured party was knocked unconscious in an attack, that left him with a broken jaw.

On December 27, 2015, the accused was in a highly intoxicated state at the Dublin Road, Portlaoise, where he attempted to kick the wing mirror off a car.

On March 13, 2016, a number of people, including the accused, entered a house at Kilminchy, Portlaoise.

The accused lit a curtain and broke up a coffee table, and Sgt Kirby said the house was broken up. €200 damage was caused.

On March 31, 2016, at Main Street, Portlaoise, the accused threw a wooden sign at the windscreen of a parked car and damaged the bonnet, causing €200 of damage.

On the same night, he threw a beer keg through the window of Lethean public house, causing €290.56 damage.

On May 7, 2016, he stole four bottles of alcohol from a store in Mountmellick.

On May 16, 2016, the accused and another male broke into the autistic unit of Timahoe NS and stole an ActivPanel television worth €5,000.

On a separate date in May, 2016, he was in a highly intoxicated state and threatened a security officer.

On May 29, at a Portlaoise estate, he ran at the residents of a house, before pulling the sliding door off at the back of the house.

He grabbed a male in the house and shouted for him to come out and fight, then he grabbed a rake. He eventually fled the scene.

On June 18, at Lakeside Gardens, Kilminchy, he committed a public order offence. On the same night, he stole an ornamental knife worth €50 from a house in the area.

And on July 9, 2016, at St Fintan’s Hospital, Portlaoise, the accused assaulted and robbed a 17-year-old, who was badly shaken.

Sgt Kirby read into the record a lengthy victim impact statement written by the staff and principal of Timahoe National School.

They said that even slight changes can cause upset to the children in the autism classes.

“People don’t do this to children, especially with special needs… I’ll never forget their anxious little faces as they were turned around and sent home,” they said.

They said that the teachers had to go back to using printed, laminated visuals in the classroom and the children didn’t understand why.

They said the loss of the valuable television set was huge, and since the burglary none of the staff want to be the first to arrive at the school.

The teachers said they now have to use up some preparation time each day just to remove valuable equipment from the classroom.

Judge Keenan Johnson said the children were very fortunate to have such caring and passionate staff.

Further victim impact evidence was given by two of the accused’s victims.

Mr Darren Daly told of how he had been attacked by the accused and another male, during which he received a blow to the back of his head with an iron bar while being boxed in the face.

He received a broken jaw and his jaw had to be wired, leaving him unable to eat solids for three months.

He still suffers discomfort from a plate that had to be inserted and was unable to work for three months.

He said he had incurred over €5,000 of medical bills, as well as some €3,000 for foods and transport.

Judge Keenan Johnson said it was an appalling state of affairs that there is no proper compensation system in Ireland.

“We spend a fortune on incarcerating people and nothing on compensating the victims,” he said.

Mr Ian Murphy gave evidence, that he was on his way home with his girlfriend and friend on July 13 at Foxcroft Street, Portarlington, when they encountered a group of males.

His friend was hit, and then Mr Murphy was punched in the face, suffering a broken nose and black eye. He said one male hit him on the cheek, another was biting him and a third hit him across the head with a bottle.

He said he had been left with neck damage, and damage to his cheek and shoulder.

“All I want to see is justice,” he said.

Defence, Mr Hennessy restated that his client wished to withdraw the appeal in the matter.

“His parents are decent people, despite their best efforts they have been unable to keep control over him”, said Mr Hennessy.

“How were these cases in the district court?” wondered Judge Johnson. “These are serious offences, I’m dealing with less serious matters (in the circuit court).”

“For a man of his young years these cases are as bad as I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Judge Johnson said that the maximum sentence of two years that he could impose was “wholly, utterly inadequate”.

He increased the original sentences to two eight-month sentences to run consecutive, and one five month sentence, concurrent, and said he would suspend the final three months on condition the accused do 240 hours’ community service.

Putting the matter back to June 13, Judge Johnson said: “The victims will go away feeling the law hasn’t been served, and I can understand that. This case should not have been dealt with in the district court.”