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Thursday 28 August 2014

Drunk Irishman pleads guilty to causing $500,000 damage to Australian hotel

Padraig Gaffney (29) turned on a fire hydrant valve and flooded the building while drunk

Published 07/05/2014 | 08:07

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The late Padraig Gaffney had been living in Australia for ten years. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

An Irishman has pleaded guilty to causing $500,000 worth of damage to a hotel when he was drunk.

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Padraig Gaffney woke up in a daze before staggering outside his room at the Fraser Place Hotel in Melbourne. He staggered down the emergency exit stairs to the eighth floor where he turned on a fire hydrant valve and flooded the building causing more than $500,000 damage, a court has heard.

Guests at the hotel had to be evacuated and the fire brigade was called as a drenched Gaffney returned to his room.

When police later knocked on his door, his hair was still dripping wet, but he had no memory of the incident, the court heard.

Gaffney had travelled to Melbourne from Queensland for the weekend to celebrate his 28th birthday and to ask his girlfriend to marry him before his arrest. The couple has since split up.

Gaffney, 29, pleaded guilty in the County Court on Tuesday to one charge of criminal damage and was fined $10,000.

Chief Judge Michael Rozenes said despite the catastrophic consequences of his actions, it was hard to see where the evil lay in Gaffney’s conduct.

Judge Rozenes said there was no malicious intent and it was just a stupid act that he would never have contemplated had he been sober.

Gaffney has said he felt so ashamed and the incident has "ruined" his life.

"This entire thing has ruined my life completely," Gaffney said. "I’ve spent 10 years in Australia trying to better myself and in the space of one night everything can be taken away from you.

"People who go out for the night and drink too much can ruin themselves completely."

Prosecutor Kristie Churchill told the court Gaffney had been staying with his girlfriend at the Fraser Place Hotel serviced apartments in Exploration Lane on Sunday, April 21 last year, when they returned to their apartment 901 about 10pm after a night out.

A drunk Gaffney woke up just after midnight and walked out into the hallway and urinated.

Wearing just a pair of underpants, Gaffney took the emergency exit stairs down to the eighth floor and turned on the fire hydrant valve, causing a large amount of water to start gushing out. Every floor below the eighth floor was soon flooded and guests had to be evacuated.

Wet and naked, Gaffney then walked up to the 10th floor and woke up a guest in apartment 1001 who gave him a pair of underpants to put on. Gaffney then banged on a number of doors on the 10th floor before returning to his room.

The fire brigade was notified at 12.28am and managed to shut off the fire hydrant valve.

Gaffney later told police he was "so, so sorry".

"This is not like me at all," Gaffney said. "I don’t know what the hell happened."

Asked why he had flooded the hotel, Gaffney replied: "Why would anyone have a reason for that? I’d just like to say I’m very, very sorry. I can’t remember a goddamn thing."

Defence lawyer Sam Norton said Gaffney had since broken up with his girlfriend who he had planned to ask to marry him during the "ill-fated trip" to Melbourne.

Mr Norton said Gaffney - who is being sued by Fraser Place Hotel over the flooding - had never intended to cause any damage to the building.

Born in County Roscommon and the youngest of six children, Gaffney completed a carpentry apprenticeship before moving to Queensland where he works for the construction company McNab.

Gaffney was deeply ashamed and embarrassed over the fallout from what he had done, given it had blackened his own reputation and tarnished his family’s name.

He had been living a normal, ordinary life before this "extraordinary turn of events", Mr Norton said.

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