A Portlaoise man has been jailed for a robbing a local off-licence with a knife, during an incident in which he smashed bottles on top of a fallen staff member before he stole the man’s bag which contained insulin for the injured party’s diabetes.
Before Portlaoise Circuit Court was Paul Houlihan (34), Mountain View, Ballyfin Road, Portlaoise, charged with robbery, from Egans Off-Licence, Portlaoise, on April 20, 2017.
Detective Garda JP O’Brien gave evidence, along with State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly, that a part-time worker was on-duty at the time when a male entered after 9pm with his face covered, wearing gloves and carrying a knife.
He shouted at the staff member to empty the till, but the employee refused and threw a glass jar at the robber, striking him on the head causing a laceration.
The robber then went behind the till and knocked the staff member down, before he rained down bottles on top of him. One bottle hit the staff member on the head, leaving him requiring three stitches. He also suffered a severed tendon on his tongue.
The robber did not get the till open, but took the staff member’s bag which contained insulin for his diabetes. The staff member gave chase and confronted him, and the robber dropped the bag.
A description of the robber was given to gardaí and CCTV footage was viewed. The accused was later spoken to by gardaí and the shoes he was wearing matched those worn by the robber. He also had a laceration to the head, leading gardaí to conclude he was the likely culprit.
When arrested, the accused said: “I did it, I need help. I hope the young lad is okay. I just wanted to get caught and go back into prison… I’m caught red-handed and I’m glad.”
Det O’Brien said the accused has had difficulties with heroin for years.
The court heard that the injured party required surgery to repair the damage to his hand. He has been left with a scar and approximately 98 percent functioning.
In a victim impact statement, the injured party said: “I froze, I kept looking at the knife. He said, ‘I’m going to stab you’... I fell backwards, I was terrified then, I thought he might seriously hurt me. From the tone of his voice, I knew he didn’t care.”
The injured party said the injury to his hand was extremely painful and he couldn’t bend his thumb for four weeks. He went back to work, but the incident was playing on his mind all the time. His boss paid all his medical bills, but he was at a loss of €600 earnings.
The accused had 45 previous convictions, including arson, 14 burglaries, and a number of robberies and assaults. He has spent a number of years in jail on various charges and was on remand in relation to this incident since April 22, 2017.
Defence for the accused said that Houlihan was well known to gardaí and had been using heroin for 13 years. He has also suffered with polysubstance abuse.
Defence said the accused was glad to be caught and went into custody in the throes of an addiction.
He said that custody is good for the accused, but then his troubles begin again when he comes out of prison.
“The true test is when he’s outside and dealing with the pressures of living in the real world,” said defence, going on to ask the court that some provision be made to help the accused in his transition from custody to being back in society.
Judge Keenan Johnson said that it seemed that the accused could not cope with freedom at the moment because he is so institutionalised and is dependant on drugs.
“The people of Portlaoise have the right to be protected. This type of crime is all too prevalent in Portlaoise due to the use of drugs,” said Judge Johnson.
The judge remanded the accused in custody for two weeks to decide on sentencing. When the case returned to the circuit court on January 26 last, Judge Johnson said the court had to send out a clear message by means of a heavy sentence that people like the accused who engage in this type of activity will be dealt with harshly to deter others who might be tempted to engage in such criminal activity.
The judge imposed seven years’ imprisonment, with the final three years suspended for five years on condition that the accused enter into a peace bond; he remain under probation supervision for two years post release; he refrain from consuming illicit drugs and alcohol; and he engage with local psychiatric services and follow all directions given to him by his medical advisers.