18 Aug 2022

Arsonist believed friend was getting 'raw deal' in inheritance

Arsonist believed friend was getting 'raw deal' in inheritance

A man lit a fire outside an empty commercial unit under the belief he was helping a woman he knew with her inheritance, a court has heard.

Dubliner Colm Dowling (64) believed this woman was getting a “raw deal” by way of her inheritance and thought on the night that he might assist her by damaging the empty unit which her family owned. He told gardaí he had an alcohol problem and had been drinking prior to the offence.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Dowling that had not drunk alcohol for many years, but relapsed after his brother John Dowling (66) was killed in Paris in 2018.

Dowling of Cypress Avenue, Brookwood pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to arson at Whitechurch Shopping Centre, Ballyboden, on July 27, 2020. He has three previous convictions, including convictions for harassment and minor road traffic offences.

Garda John Dalton told Noel Devitt BL, prosecuting, that two adjoining premises at the shopping centre were damaged by fire, a unit which had been empty for many years outside of which the fire was started and an adjoining Centra shop.

Gda Dalton said the accused man drove to the shopping centre in the early hours of the morning, poured petrol out of a fuel can and lit a fire outside the empty unit which then spread to the Centra. Dowling was identified on CCTV and was arrested at his home the next day.

The total damage caused by the fire was approximately €200 to the empty unit and approximately €2,500 to the Centra.

In interview with gardaí, Dowling told gardaí that he had an alcohol problem and had been drinking and taking medication on the date in question.

Dowling said he knew a member of the family who owned the empty unit and believed she was getting a “raw deal” by way of her inheritance. He said in his drunken state he thought he might be able to assist her by damaging the property and this would lead to any dispute regarding inheritance being resolved.

The court heard that he holds the view that if he had not been drinking then he would not have acted in this way.

Gda Dalton agreed with Simon Matthews BL, defending, that his client had genuine remorse for what he had done.

Mr Matthews said his client had not drank alcohol since being convicted of harassment until the death of his brother in late 2018. His brother John Dowling was a lecturer who was stabbed to death while working in Paris.

Counsel said his client had consumed eight or nine cans of Guinness on the date in question. He said his client has not drank alcohol since the offence and submitted that he would not drink again.

Mr Matthews said his client has made two donations of his own accord, one to Alcohol Anonymous and one to the Father Peter McVerry Trust.

Judge Elma Sheahan said she acknowledges Dowling's efforts to deal with alcohol dependence and the fact that he is currently in remission. She said she acknowledged the traumatic effect the death of his brother had on his “psychological make-up”.

Judge Sheahan noted the view expressed by consultants that alcohol was an accelerant in his behaviour and that his behaviour on the night was impulsive. She said these facts posed a concern about his capacity to control himself when drinking.

She said the court requires further proof of his sobriety before she could dispose of the matter fairly. She placed Dowling on a 12 month probation bond and ordered the Probation Service to carry out “regular and unplanned” blood tests during the period.

Judge Sheahan also ordered that Dowling remain abstinent from alcohol and undergo residential treatment if deemed appropriate by the Probation Service. She adjourned the matter for finalisation to April 25, 2022.

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