Sunday 23 October 2016

Chronic alcoholic caused €25k worth of damage to flat provided to him by council

Fiona Ferguson

Published 05/11/2015 | 17:27

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A chronic alcoholic who caused €25,000 of fire damage to a flat provided to him after over a decade of homelessness has been jailed for two years.

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Michael Smyth (66) told gardai he had been intoxicated and probably left a cigarette on his bed.

He has 362 previous convictions mainly for public order offences occurring while he was sleeping rough in the Temple Bar area.

Smyth, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to arson at Hogan Court, Dublin on August 12, 2014. The damage caused to the flat totalled €25,910.

Judge Martin Nolan said even with a beneficial interpretation of causing the damage recklessly it was still a serious offence due to the danger his actions caused to other parties and the cost of the damage.

He imposed a two year sentence which he backdated to when Smyth went into custody.

Garda Amy Kelly told James Dwyer BL, prosecuting, that Smyth had been living at the time in accommodation provided to him by Dublin City Council.

A man living in a flat directly above him described Smyth banging on the ceiling and shouting abuse such as “I will burn you.” An official from the housing department had also noted Smyth making comments about burning in the past.

A complaint had been made in July 2014 and he had been cautioned about remarks he had made.

The man living upstairs said that on the day of the fire he had noticed smoke at the front of his flat.

Gardai were alerted and attended at the scene along with three fire engines and an ambulance. One man was taken to hospital as a precaution. Smyth had earlier left the flat complex.

The seat of the fire was found to be a mattress in Smyth's flat.

Later that day a garda encountered Smyth in Templebar and told him there had been a fire in his flat. Smyth voluntarily accompanied him to a garda station. He said he had left the flat that morning and not returned that day.

He later told gardai during interview that he probably left a cigarette on the bed. He said he had been intoxicated and had little recall of what happened. He denied exchanging words with his upstairs neighbour.

Gda Kelly agreed with Michael Hourigan BL, defending, that Smyth had accepted he was responsible for the fire and that he did not get into trouble when he was sober.

Mr Hourigan said Smyth was prone to saying things which at any other time would not be taken seriously and his prior comments had been an “unhappy coincidence” in terms of what happened.

He said Smyth had been in custody since June and was doing well.

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