A Tullamore man with over 50 convictions who tried to steal money from a hospital parking meter has avoided going to jail as he is about to start on a methadone programme for his heroin addiction.
Judge Catherine Staines noted that Joseph Coughlan, 76 O’Molloy Street, Tullamore, did not have any compensation in court after causing €200 damage to the parking meter at Portlaoise General Hospital, on February 23 this year.
Inspector Aidan Farrelly gave evidence that security staff at the hospital observed on CCTV footage two people, one of whom was Coughlan, interfering with the parking meter. The two individuals were sawing at the meter in an attempt to get money, and caused damage worth €200.
Coughlan had 52 previous convictions, nine of which were for criminal damage.
Defence for Coughlan said that the 29-year-old had a heroin addiction, but he was seeking help through the Ana Liffey Project and was hoping to begin a methadone programme in the coming weeks.
Defence said that the last time Coughlan had been in court he was given the option of community service, but he chose to go to prison to deal with his drug addiction. However, this had not worked.
Judge Staines remarked that the case had been adjourned five times, and the amount of legal aid Coughlan had received would have covered the compensation. She asked had Coughlan saved anything, to which defence replied he had not and it would take about a month for him to have the money.
“Why did he not save anything since March?” asked Judge Staines.
“I didn’t know how much it was,” replied Coughlan.
“Did you think of asking?” asked the judge.
“No,” admitted Coughlan, going on to say that he could save €30 a week in the coming weeks.
“The only reason you’re not going to jail is because you’re starting a methadone programme in two weeks,” ruled Judge Staines, imposing a six-month sentence on Coughlan, suspended for two years on his own bond of €100.
Conditions of the bond are that he must have €200 compensation saved by September 1, and he must attend for treatment for his heroin addiction.