A Laois man has been sentenced to jail for robbing his own grandmother’s house, in a frightening ordeal which has left the 80-year-old woman a virtual prisoner in her own home.
Judge Keenan Johnson said that the victim’s trust and sense of security have both been shattered, when he sentenced Gavin Fitzhenry to seven years in prison, with the last two years suspended.
The accused was sentenced at the recent Portlaoise Circuit Court, for burglary at Summerhill Lane, Portlaoise, on May 16, 2015.
At 2.15am, three males with their faces covered broke into the home of Kathleen Fitzhenry, an 80-year-old woman living alone. She suffers with osteoporosis and has a hospital bed in her home.
As she exited the bed in order to turn off the burglar alarm, she felt a cold metallic object to her neck. The raiders went through her medicine trolley and attempted to remove the rings from her fingers.
They exited the premises when she mentioned that her carer lived next door.
They stole a laptop, mobile phone, 32” TV, hedge trimmer, chainsaw and fishing rods to a total value of €1,355.
When arrested, the accused initially denied taking part in the burglary, but later said he knew about the burglary although he did not know that his grandmother would be targeted.
He said he remained in the car during the burglary, but got out of the car to take heroin when he realised that his grandmother’s house was being burgled.
He said his brother had a debt for drugs and gambling and he was placed under pressure to pay the debt. He was offered €500 to act as driver for the burglars.
He refused to name his co-accused.
“This was a shocking and terrifying crime as it involved the burglary of a private residence occupied by a vulnerable elderly lady,” said Judge Johnson.
The victim impact statement indicated that she no longer feels comfortable in her home.
She has had lighting installed all around the house, and locks the doors of each room after her when she moves around the house.
She is using more electricity than ever as she has to keep the house lit and thus prevent further burglaries.
The whole experience has been upsetting for her. She won’t go anywhere strange any more and won’t answer the door unless the people ring in advance to say who they are.
“She now is to some extent a prisoner in her own house due to fear of going out,” said Judge Johnson.
“People like Mrs Fitzhenry deserve to be left in peace and to feel safe in their own homes.
“The actions of the accused and his accomplices have shattered Mrs Fitzhenry’s sense of security.
“Her trust and sense of security have both been shattered and this is a particularly serious matter for a person like Mrs Fitzhenry who is in their twilight years” he said.
The accused has a serious criminal record with 48 previous convictions.
The judge said that it is very clear from the probation report that the accused’s offending stems from his chronic addiction to heroin. It is further clear that until he tackles that addiction once and for all he will continue to be in trouble and appearing before the court.
Judge Johnson imposed seven years, with the final two years suspended for five years on a number of conditions: the accused must enter into a peace bond and keep the peace for five years; he must remain under probation supervision for two years; he must remain drug and alcohol free for five years post-release, and remain drug free and engage with addiction services while in custody; and he must engage in offence focused and victim awareness work while in custody, and continue to do so for two years post release.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.