A Laois man has been given a suspended jail sentence for robbing someone in their own apartment with a steak knife.
At the recent sitting of Portlaoise Circuit Court, David Eremita (25), was charged with aggravated burglary.
Sgt JJ Kirby gave evidence that on May 17, 2014, between 7pm and 7.30pm, the accused entered an apartment at Kilminchy Court, Portlaoise, where he had attended a party the previous night.
The occupant was there with a female friend and the accused sat down, before he took the Playstation that was in the apartment.
The occupant attempted to stop him, but Eremita produced a knife and threatened him.
The accused went to leave and the occupant again tried to stop him, and once more the knife was produced.
The accused pointed the knife, a large steak knife, at the woman present, said Sgt Kirby.
The stolen item, a Playstation 2 worth €250, was never recovered.
The two injured parties declined to give victim impact statements to the gardaí and they were not in court on the day.
The accused, who Sgt Kirby said had been homeless between Portlaoise and Dublin, was arrested on April 3, 2015.
When interviewed, he said he had no recollection of the incident.
“He had a mental blankness about the affair,” said Sgt Kirby, adding that there was no CCTV footage of the incident as the CCTV system at the apartment complex had been out of operation at the time.
Defence, barrister Ms Geraldine Fitzpatrick suggested that, given the state he was in, a lack of recollection wouldn’t be unusual.
“It would be a factor, but he is an experienced man of the world,” replied Sgt Kirby.
The accused had 38 previous convictions, largely public order matters, but also for thefts, trespassing, drugs, burglaries, and the possession of a knife.
Sgt Kirby said the accused had lived his childhood in Dublin and then lived in Mountmellick, never being gainfully employed.
The sergeant said that Eremita had lived in the Portlaoise area for nine or ten years, suffering on and off with a drug addiction.
Ms Fitzpatrick told the court that her client had started on alcohol at a very young age and he had also spent time in homeless accommodation.
She said he had engaged well with the probation services and is suitable for probation supervision.
The accused is now on a residential programme for his addiction, so he has taken steps, said Ms Fitzpatrick.
She handed in documents to the court, including a very comprehensive probation report which showed his level of cooperation.
Judge Keenan Johnson said it was a very serious charge as the accused had a wielded a steak knife at both people in the apartment.
The Playstation was never recovered and the accused was subsequently arrested intoxicated, and when interviewed his said he had no memory of the burglary.
However, Judge Johnson acknowledged that the accused did not take issue with the facts as put to him by the gardaí.
The judge noted the accused had a very bad previous record with 38 previous convictions, but there had been no further offences and the accused was now on the road to rehabilitation.
“The court has to send out the clear message that offences like this will be dealt with severely, to act as a deterrent,” said Judge Johnson, adding that the victims had been traumatised by the accused’s actions.
The judge said an aggravating factor was the use of a knife, and the fact that the probation report indicated the accused was at a moderate risk of reoffending. Mitigating factors included the accused’s difficult background.
“He’s at a crossroads, but if he takes the right path he can be a good, productive member of society,” said Judge Johnson.
The judge imposed a four year sentence, suspended for five years on condition that the accused enter into a peace bond of €500 to keep the peace for five years; he must remain under probation supervision for two years; he must remain drug and alcohol-free for five years and provide urinalysis; he must pay €2,000 compensation by two annual installments, the first in February 2018 and the second in February of 2019, with €1,000 going to each of the two injured parties; and he must engage with career guidance to secure employment.
“The keys to prison have been placed in your own hands,” Judge Johnson warned the accused.