12 Aug 2022

Laois Irish Rail attack trio given nine-year sentences

All three men equally culpable in knuckle-duster attack and imprisonment, says judge

Laois County Council offers to partner with Department of Justice on Portlaoise courthouse

Portlaoise Courthouse.

Three Carlow men involved in a vicious assault on an Irish Rail security guard in Mountrath during the robbery of copper wire, in which the guard was punched in the eye with a metal knuckle-duster before being locked in a car boot for ten hours, have each received a nine-year sentence at Portlaoise Circuit Court.

At today's (Thursday, December 20) court, Judge Keenan Johnson said that Patrick Martin (28), St Mullins, Carlow; Martin Cunningham (36) Clonegal, Carlow; and Patrick Cunningham (21), Myshall, Carlow, were all equally culpable in the crime, and equally culpable for imprisoning the security guard in the boot of the car, at Kilbricken, Mountrath, on December 5, 2017.

Judge Johnson said that the most aggressive part of the crime was that the victim was bundled into the car boot and left there for ten hours.

“It’s difficult to comprehend the callousness of the three accused,” said Judge Johnson, “they couldn’t but have known that he was unlikely to be rescued for some time.”

The injured party arrived at the Irish Rail compound in Kilbricken, Mountrath, at 5am to commence his work as a security officer and was sitting in his car on his phone, when suddenly the driver’s side window was smashed in and he received a blow to the side of the face.

The man suffered very serious injuries to his right eye from this blow and he was bundled into the boot of the car and left there for some ten hours. He was finally freed when a work colleague arrived at 3pm that afternoon.

The court heard that Martin Cunningham was working for a contractor at the Irish Rail compound at the time of the robbery.

Patrick Cunningham, the nephew of Martin, had a metal knuckle-duster with which he struck the security guard, while Patrick Martin had a monkey wrench with which he smashed the window of the car.

The injured party required surgery to repair the damage to his eye and there is a chance of further surgery in the future. The court heard that the vision in his eye recovered to a little under 50 percent.

When arrested and questioned, Patrick Martin told gardaí that the Cunninghams had needed to deal with a drug debt and he, Martin, had gone along on the robbery to assist.

In passing sentence, Judge Johnson said that each of the accused was equally culpable and all three had acted with common design.

He said it was abundantly clear that each man was culpable for the imprisonment of the injured party in the boot of the car.

Judge Johnson imposed a nine-year sentence on each accused, with the final three years suspended for five years on condition they enter into a peace bond and be of good behaviour for five years; they remain under the supervision of the probation services; and they remain clean of drugs, providing urinalysis when called to do so.

The sentence on Martin Cunningham and Patrick Martin was backdated to the date the accused went into custody, which was in December 2017.

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