Monday 16 December 2019

Arson youth told he could have burned down 'half of Leixlip', court hears

The Salmon Leap pub in Leixlip in Co Kildare
The Salmon Leap pub in Leixlip in Co Kildare

Jessica Magee

A Dublin youth who set fire to at least two vacant buildings causing almost €400,000 worth of damage has been jailed for a fortnight while a judge decides on his sentence.

Joseph Cooney (22) pleaded guilty to arson of a shed behind the Salmon Leap pub in Leixlip and at a house on Main Street on the town in the early hours of November 25, 2012.

At his sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Martin Nolan accepted a garda's view that the arson was a one-off “act of madness”.

But he told Cooney to use the time in jail to think of what his future would be like if he falls from grace again.

Cooney, of St Finian's Avenue, Lucan, Co Dublin, was remanded in custody for sentencing on November 24.

Judge Nolan said Cooney had “near-perfect mitigation” due to his guilty plea, his remorse, his lack of previous convictions and the large amount of good references in his favour.

But he said “half of Leixlip” could have been burnt down and innocent people could have died because of Cooney's “gross error of judgement”.

Judge Nolan said Cooney and his co-accused were “basically on drugs for the night and were bored and decided to liven up their lives by setting properties on fire”.

Garda John Flaherty said the co-accused was the leader in the offence and that Cooney was “like a lamb following”.

He said gardaí were called to deal with three fires, one in a shed behind the Salmon Leap Pub, the second in the lounge of the pub, and the third in a vacant terraced house on 33, Main Street in Leixlip.

The Salmon Leap Pub was locked at the time as it had been closed down some 17 months earlier.

The lounge area was badly damaged and the cost of returning the pub to its previous condition was €200,000.

The fire at the house on 33 Main Street caused an estimated €160,000 in damage. The house was being renovated at the time.

Several premises adjoining the house were also badly damaged as the fire spread, including the Rye Gallery and the Little Yellow Wool Shop, causing thousands of euro worth of damage.

Cooney and his co-accused were identified on CCTV several times on Main Street, Leixlip. At one point they had changed their clothing, and at another time they were seen running from the Salmon Leap pub.

Cooney was arrested and initially denied any involvement, but then told gardaí he was sent to “keep sketch” while his friend went around the back of the pub and set fire to the shed.

Cooney also admitted forcing his way into the house on Main Street and setting a number of boxes on fire. He said he didn't remember the Salmon Leap pub being on fire, but he knew he was there and had some part to play.

Cooney accepted that his actions were “stupid” and apologised to the owners of the buildings and to gardaí.

Garda Flaherty said at the time, Cooney was “very easily led” but said his behaviour was “totally out of character”.

The court heard that Cooney is in full-time employment and that his partner is due to give birth in January.

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