17 Aug 2022

Seven years for Portlaoise man who committed two armed robberies to clear drug debt

Seven years for Portlaoise man who committed two armed robberies to clear drug debt

A Portlaoise man who committed two armed robberies in order to pay off a €7,000 cocaine debt, terrifying shop assistants with a sawn-off rifle and firing shots at members of the public during the hijacking of a vehicle to make his escape, has been jailed for seven years with the last two years suspended.

“A clear message has to go out that anybody who engages in armed robbery can expect a custodial sentence not so much to punish the offender but to deter others from engaging in such activity,” said Judge Keenan Johnson, sentencing Joseph Moore (32), Market Mews, Maryborough Village, Portlaoise.

The accused pleaded guilty to robbery at Emo Oil Filling Station, Mountrath, on August 19, 2017; burglary at OIdtown, Abbeyleix, on August 10, 2017, where he entered a house and stole a rifle; the authorised taking of an MPV, at Derrykearn, Abbeyleix, on August 19, 2017; and the possession of a firearm under suspicious circumstances, at Derrykearn, Abbeyleix, on August 19, 2017.

At Portlaoise Circuit Court, Detective Garda JP O'Brien gave evidence, along with State prosecutor Mr Will Fennelly, that on August 19, 2017, the accused entered the Emo Filling Station, Mountrath, with a firearm.

He pointed the firearm at the man working and directed him to empty the till. The accused stole €1,980 from the store.

Det O’Brien said that the firearm, a sawn-off rifle, was pointed at the employee throughout the incident.

This firearm was stolen during a burglary at Oldtown, Abbeyleix, on August 10, 2017.

Det O’Brien said that following the robbery on August 19, the accused hijacked a vehicle at Derrykearn, Abbeyleix, during which shots were fired.

The accused had crashed his getaway car after the robbery in Mountrath and hijacked another one.

Det O’Brien said that people were running for cover during the hijacking, with the accused firing shots. He subsequently crashed this hijacked vehicle and was found hiding in shrubbery about ten feet from the crashed vehicle. The accused was arrested and taken to Tullamore hospital with injuries including fractures and broken bones.

Det O’Brien said the offences were committed against a backdrop of considerable drug abuse.

Defence for the accused said that Moore had been abusing cocaine and benzodiazepines on the day of the offending and he owed a significant drug debt for cocaine of €7,000.

Judge Johnson said it was clear that all the victims were subjected to aggressive and frightening behaviour.

“The offences to which the accused pleaded guilty are extremely serious and unfortunately far too prevalent. In most instance these types of offences are committed by people like the accused who are high on drugs and need money to feed their habit,” he said.

On one count of robbery, the judge imposed seven years in prison, with the final two years suspended on condition the accused enter into a peace bond for ten years; he remain under probation supervision for two years post-release; he remain drug and alcohol free during the term of the suspended sentence and he submit urinalysis to confirm this; he engage with all addiction support services in custody; he engage with working/training opportunities within prison; he engage with psychological services in custody; and post-release he continue to engage with mental health services.

On the firearm charge, Judge Johnson imposed a five-year sentence to run concurrent. The other charges were taken into consideration.

The sentences were backdated to August, 2017, when the accused went into custody.

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