A PORTLAOISE man described by gardai as one of the biggest heroin addicts in the town has been sentenced to five years, with the last two suspended, for a string of thefts and burglaries.
Before the recent circuit court was Darren O’Brien, 59 Hillview Drive, Portlaoise. Garda John Paul O’Brien gave evidence that on August 21 last year, O’Brien entered the Sila shop on the Dublin Road in Portlaoise.
He had his face covered and was holding a large knife, and proceeded to demand money from the 16-year-old girl working behind the counter. He fled the shop with €105, and was recognised running from the shop by a nearby resident.
In her statement to gardai, the girl said she was in fear for her life. She said that she has been suffering with nightmares for some time since the incident.
Garda O’Brien went to the defendant’s flat on August 21, which was located just above the Sila shop. The garda said that O’Brien was sweating profusely when he found him in the flat and he admitted he had committed the robbery. He was arrested, and during interview he told the garda that he owed a substantial drug debt.
He also said that threats had been made against his father, if he did not come up with the money.
While in custody, O’Brien also recounted his involvement in a series of burglaries from homes around Portlaoise, between June 7 and August 21, 2012. Garda O’Brien said that at the time, O’Brien was “one of the biggest addicts in the town”, but he has since made steps to address his addiction while in custody.
O’Brien has nine previous convictions and has been in custody on these matters since February 17.
Judge Tony Hunt said that a custodial sentence was inevitable in this case.
“He hasn’t had much of a go in life, but what can I do?” asked the judge. “A young girl had a knife put to her.”
The judge imposed a five year sentence for the robbery with the knife, but he suspended the last two years on condition O’Brien keep the peace for two years post-release. He must also remain under the supervision of the probation service for 18 months.
“His needs and risk of reoffending are high,” Judge Hunt said.