Wednesday 7 December 2016

Woman (42) who spat at Luas passenger and robbed her handbag with accomplice avoids jail

Fiona Ferguson

Published 08/07/2016 | 15:15

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

A woman who with her partner robbed a woman on the Luas has been given a two year suspended sentence.

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Suzanne McGowan (42) spat at the woman and David Larkin (37) punched the victim multiple times before they escaped the Luas with her handbag.

The Dublin pair had been verbally abusing the woman for a few stops and other passengers had failed to assist her when they made off with her bag, Garda Conor Fleming told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Larkin of Delaford Grove, Knocklyon, and McGowan of Knockmore Crescent, Tallaght, both pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbing Izabela Portyka of her purse and contents on August 14, 2012.

Larkin has 30 previous convictions, including thefts and drug offences, and McGowan has 24 previous convictions, including assault and public order offences.

Judge Patricia Ryan last year imposed a four year sentence with the final two years suspended on Larkin for his role.

She had adjourned McGowan's case until last January pending a probation and welfare services report but she failed to appear and a bench warrant was issued. The warrant was executed last week and she was remanded in custody until today/yesterday (FRI) for sentencing.

Judge Ryan had previously noted the offence was “out of character” for the mother-of-two and confirmed today/yesterday (FRI) that she had not come to any further adverse attention.

She imposed a two year sentence on McGowan which she suspended in full for three years.

At the sentence hearing last year Gda Fleming said Ms Portyka had boarded the Luas at the Tallaght stop about 3.15pm and was obstructed by the couple on her way to her usual seat behind the driver.

He told Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting, that Larkin and McGowan became abusive, calling the victim a “slut”.

Larkin followed Ms Portyka and continued verbally abusing her as she knocked on the glass partition to get the driver's attention. The driver spoke to Larkin at one stop, but then returned to his cab.

The victim knocked again on the partition window after Larkin had attempted to grab her bag when the tram was in motion. She could hear the driver calling for security and garda assistance.

After a second attempt Larkin took Ms Portyka's bag, punched her several times and pushed her head into a steel column. Ms Portyka followed the couple from the front carriage down the Luas, asking other passengers to help her.

Nobody assisted and Larkin threw a water bottle at her, before exiting the tram with her bag.

The victim met with gardai at a subsequent stop and her bag was later retrieved by a bystander who followed the culprits.

Gda Fleming told the court that Ms Portyka received treatment in hospital for neck and head injuries. She now suffered from migraines and psychological issues.

The garda agreed with Marc Thompson BL, defending Larkin that the victim was spared having to give evidence at trial due to his client's guilty plea. He accepted Larkin was a drug addict and alcoholic.

Gda Fleming agreed with Nicola Cox BL, defending McGowan that the mother-of-two was known for “wandering aimlessly through Tallaght” and was highly intoxicated on the day.

He further agreed that an ex-partner had gotten her addicted to drugs when she was 21 years old.

Mr Thompson told Judge Ryan that his client had written a letter of apology for his actions and that the offence was not premeditated.

Ms Cox said that McGowan had a lesser role in the offence and asked the judge to take into consideration her client's ill health, homeless history and difficult family background.

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