A 43-year-old Newbridge man who came to Portlaoise town intending to rob a pub in order to get money for drugs has been given a suspended sentence.
Thomas McCann (43), Newbridge, was charged at Portlaoise Circuit Court with burglary, at Sally Gardens, Portlaoise, on July 3, 2014.
Detective Garda Conor Murphy gave evidence, along with State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly, that on July 3, 2014, the accused entered the pub and took €1,200 in cash and coins from the till. The pub was closed and unoccupied at the time. No damage was caused during the break-in.
The money stolen from the pub was not recovered.
CCTV footage from the adjoining premises showed the accused leaving the premises just before 1pm. He was subsequently identified from garda CCTV cameras and other cameras around the town.
The accused was arrested at his address in Newbridge and interviewed twice at Portlaoise Garda Station. He made no admissions to the burglary.
“He admitted he was in the town, but that’s as far as it went,” said Det Murphy.
Det Murphy said that during a search of the accused’s home, sunglasses and a tartan hat were found which matched those worn by the burglar as shown in CCTV footage.
The detective went on to say that heroin was a major factor in the accused’s life, starting in his teenage years.
He said that McCann would often use a piece of plastic or a credit card to slip the lock on premises he burgled.
The accused had 154 previous convictions, including 48 for burglary, 22 for theft, 38 road traffic matters, 18 for possession of certain articles, and convictions for assault, public order offences, and impersonating a garda.
The accused went into custody on these matters on February 28, 2017, and is now serving a four-year sentence on other matters, with the last year suspended, backdated to May 18 last year.
Defence barrister, Mr Rory Hanniffy said that the accused’s face had not been visible on the CCTV, so his guilty plea was of some assistance to the gardaí.
He said that McCann had a longstanding drug addiction history, in excess of 25 years having begun abusing substances at the age of 18. McCann used many substances, primarily heroin. The money he stole was used to fund this habit, said defence.
Mr Hanniffy said the accused had now completed a detox since going into custody.
Taking the witness box, the accused said he had spent 22 of the last 24 years in custody.
He said he was sorry to the pub owner whose premises he had burgled, adding that he hadn’t been thinking straight as he was on drugs.
“I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes,” he told Judge Keenan Johnson. “I’m not a victim, the only victim is the owner of the pub.”
He said at the time he was a heroin addict and he started taking class A drugs in 1992 in Manchester.
He said he had been wandering the streets trying to find drugs and travelled to Portlaoise on the day to get money.
He said he made sure no one was in the pub at the time.
He said he had now fully detoxed for the first time in custody and was using his time studying such writers and thinkers as Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela, James Joyce and Martin Luther King.
He said: “I’ve only existed up to now, I hope one day to live.”
In conclusion for the defence, Mr Hanniffy said that the accused’s wife was willing to reimburse the injured party €50 a month.
In sentencing, Judge Johnson said the accused had an appalling record.
“He has been destroyed and ruined by his addiction to drugs,” said Judge Johnson, going on to say that “he seems to have had a Road to Damascus-style conversion while in custody”.
“It’s a bit late in the day to have this realisation, however if genuine then it behoves the court to foster rehabilitation,” said the judge.
The judge imposed a two-year sentence, consecutive to the sentence McCann was already serving, but suspended it for five years on condition that the accused enter into a peace bond; he engage with probation services for two years; he remain drug and alcohol free and provide urinalysis; and he pay €1,200 to the injured party within two years.
Thanking the court at the conclusion of the case, the accused echoed MLK by saying: “I have a dream.”
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