A man who pulled down his mask and shouted “coronavirus” at a security guard he also threatened to kill during a knife-point robbery has been jailed for three years.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Kevin Brosnan (40) “capitalised on the fears and anxieties of the general public during a pandemic” by mentioning the virus during the robbery.
Brosnan of Ardmore Park, Tallaght, pleaded guilty to robbery at Centra, Old Bawn Shopping Centre, Tallaght, on April 2, 2020. His 82 previous convictions include convictions for burglary, theft, possession of knives and affray.
Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Karen O'Connor said Brosnan appeared to have escalated the nature of his offending.
Judge O'Connor said the case was mitigated by his difficult background, his chronic addiction and his long period of homelessness. She said it appears at this time in his life “he is endeavouring to make improvements”.
She sentenced Brosnan to four-and-a-half years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions, including that he co-operate with any programme dealing with racist behaviour as directed by the Probation Service.
At a previous sentencing hearing, Garda Dillon O'Malley told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that Brosnan entered the Centra shop armed with a knife, pulled down his mask and shouted “Coronavirus” at a security guard working there.
He threatened the security guard and referred to him with a racial slur. He then approached the counter and demanded a shop assistant open the till, telling him that he was HIV positive when the shop assistant initially could not get the till open.
As the shop assistant was putting money in a shopping bag for the accused, Brosnan repeatedly told the security guard he would kill him each time the guard attempted to approach. The guard made an attempt to block him as he left the store, but Brosnan pointed the knife at him and again threatened to kill him.
Brosnan was spotted by a member of the public shortly after the robbery and contacted gardaí, who arrived and arrested the accused. He was found to be in possession of €630 which was returned to the shop.
Gda O'Malley agreed with Sarah-Jane O'Callaghan BL, defending, that her client “capitalised on the fears and anxieties of the general public during a pandemic” by mentioning Coronavirus. He agreed with counsel that her client had employed a “shocking” racial slur towards the victim.
The garda agreed that Brosnan is disgusted with his actions and has expressed genuine remorse.
The court heard that Brosnan had been released by gardaí without charge following a separate knife-point robbery the previous year.
Brosnan also pleaded guilty to robbery at Mace, Killinarden Way, Tallaght, on October 3, 2019.
Garda Gary Duffy told Mr Hayes that on the date in October 2019, Brosnan entered the Mace shop along with an accomplice who was holding a knife. This accomplice put the knife to the neck of a shop assistant and demanded that the till be opened.
Gda Duffy said the man with the knife threatened to “stab” and “kill” the shop assistant unless the till was opened. Brosnan and his accomplice grabbed money and ran from the shop.
Brosnan was identified by gardaí on CCTV footage obtained from the shop. He was arrested and interviewed, but was ultimately released without charge.
Gda Duffy agreed with Ms O'Callaghan that there was a “huge juxtaposition” between her client's demeanour when he is sober and his actions during the offence.