A HEROIN addict who threatened a female shop assistant with a knife during an armed robbery has been given one last chance by Judge Tony Hunt to engage with the probation services.
21-year-old Andrew O’Neill, originally from Portarlington but now living in Letterkenny, was charged with robbery at the Rosecourt Filling Station, Port, on August 28, 2011.
Sgt James Phelan, led by State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly, gave evidence that O’Neill entered the filling station with his face concealed and bearing a large kitchen knife. The female shop assistant was later able to give a description of the accused to gardaí, saying that the man was “very skinny, with his clothes hanging off him”. The woman said that O’Neill threatened her with the knife and said, “Give me the money - all of it”. After receiving money from the till, O’Neill ran from the premises.
€155 was taken and none of the money was recovered. The shop assistant, who was 21 at the time, was left in a very shocked state and stopped working at the filling station shortly after.
Sgt Phelan said that, after viewing CCTV footage at the shop, a female associate of O’Neill’s was observed “casing the place out” before the robbery. The sergeant also said that O’Neill had been seen in the shop two days previous, wearing the same clothes as the day of the robbery.
O’Neill was further identified by a resident of a nearby housing estate, who saw O’Neill running past her toward waste ground with his face uncovered. Sgt Phelan said that a search of the waste ground later revealed the clothes that O’Neill had been wearing. When O’Neill was arrested, he denied the robbery to gardaí.
Defence, Mr Colm Hennessy said that his client had been a heroin addict since he was 17 and came from “a difficult family”. He said that there was no gratuitous violence during the relatively quick robbery and that O’Neill had been in the throes of a heroin addiction at the time. Mr Hennessy said O’Neill had relapsed with heroin in the last two months and was now attending Coote Street in Portlaoise for his addiction.
The court heard from Mr Fennelly that O’Neill, who has a number of previous convictions, had failed to keep his appointments with his probation officer or the addiction services.
Judge Hunt remarked: “It’s not fair for the probation services to have to run from Billy to Jack chasing people.”
The judge said that young people working in a filling station could be in a vulnerable position and the protection of such workers required a custodial sentence in this case. However, he said he was not going to send someone to custody without giving him one last chance to engage with the probation service in Letterkenny and the matter was put back to April 23.
“He has to liaise with the services, it’s not up to them to have to pursue people around the country,” said the judge.