AN OUTSPOKEN judge has told homeowners to use "maximum force" against burglars, whom he described as "knackers".
District Court Judge Geoffrey Browne made the strident comments after hearing the case of a publican who has been robbed three times in five months.
Michael Masterson (69) suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised after raiders repeatedly targeted his Derreen Inn in Abbeyknockmoy, Co Galway.
Sentencing two burglars to jail, Judge Browne said: "It's time for more force to be used on these fellows.
"Maximum force should be used," added the judge at Tuam District Court, before describing those who carry out such attacks as "knackers".
Sympathising with the victim, the judge added: "I would like to say he should protect himself using other resources than a hurley stick."
The judge's comments come during a rural crimewave, with raiders targeting the elderly and vulnerable in particular.
He was commenting after the case of Patrick and John Reilly, of Moyne Park, Abbeyknockmoy, who have burgled the Derreen Inn in Abbeyknockmoy on three occasions between them.
Judge Browne sentenced Patrick Reilly to 22 months in prison and John Reilly to 18 months' detention.
"What about the poor landlord who probably can't sleep at night now?
"It's time for more force to be used on these fellows," said the judge.
Mr Roche said he backed Judge Browne's comments wholeheartedly.
"It's past time that the judiciary sent out a strong message on this and I think Judge Browne has done just that.
"He didn't mention a gun but reading between the lines, I think that is what we're talking about here.
"He is representing the views of the general public. What he said is exactly what is on the tongues of most decent people," he added.
Speaking to the Irish Independent outside court, Mr Masterson said he no longer slept at night as a result of the break-ins, which took place in August, November and December of last year.
The break-ins have left him in ill health and he has also suffered two heart attacks, one of which occurred just two days after the November robbery.
"It's all happened since July, just one robbery after the other and I've been hospitalised after every one.
"It takes a terrible toll on you," he said.
The publican added that he had never before felt the need to arm himself – but said he would now have to take the judge's comments into consideration.
"I've been running the pub for 32 years and this is the worst I've ever seen it. I don't know if it would do any good to be armed, I don't know what would stop these people but I have to think about the future," he said.
"Detention doesn't seem to work; they are let out as soon as they go in," he added.
Mr Masterson said it would cost him close to €30,000 to repair the damage and upgrade his security systems at the bar.
"The damage they do is absolutely horrendous. Each robbery was as bad as the next.
"They smashed up everything, 10 or 12 big windows and the doors.
"They tore the jukebox and the TV off the wall and broke the glasses," he said.
His wife, Annette, said the raids had weakened her husband's health.
"Michael hasn't worked in the pub since, the stress has had a terrible effect. . . When we go down every morning we don't know what we will find," she added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice would not comment on the matter, adding: "It would be inappropriate for the minister to comment on any case before the courts."
Judge Browne has hit the headlines on a number of occasions before, for his no-nonsense rulings.
In June of last year, he took a swipe at the banks, saying they must share in the debt burden.
Judge Browne said that if such institutions were foolish enough to lend certain people money in the boom time then they must deal with the consequences now.
Just one month later, he ordered that a Galway businessman could pay Bank of Scotland the price of a pint each week until his €83,000 debt was cleared.
The ruling will take Gareth Duffy, from Ballina, Ballyglunin, 400 years to pay off, but Judge Browne insisted the bank would be around for a long time.
In October of last year, he came to prominence once again, this time for silencing a local cheerleading team in Tuam.