Drug addict threatened priest with syringe after being caught stealing from poor box
A drug addict has been jailed for a year for threatening a priest with a syringe after being caught stealing from the poor box.
Mark Pierce (33) told Father William Fitzpatrick (67) and John McShane (47), who held him in a headlock, “let me go or I’ll gouge you, I’ll wet my pants”. He then urinated on himself. He later dropped the syringe he had been holding when he heard the garda sirens.
Pierce, a father of four, of The Drive, Cypress Downs, Templeogue, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal to theft and threatening to injure Fr Fitzpatrick with a syringe at Tyrconnell Road, Inchicore on August 6, 2013. His previous convictions include drug offences.
Judge Martin Nolan said the theft was “a pretty offensive crime but not a serious one”.
He said Pierce’s reaction to the two men was a frightening experience for both of them and they had to use all their strength and determination to restrain him.
Fr Fitzpatrick later told gardaí that he had been preparing for 7pm mass when a lady from the parish told him there was a man at the back of the church trying to steal from the poor box.
He and Mr McShane approached the thief and asked him what he was doing. Pierce tried to push past them and became aggressive. He shoved the men and was lashing out with his hands and feet.
Garda Paul Geraghty told Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting that the men managed to get Pierce to sit down on a bench, while Mr McShane dialled 999.
Pierce then reached into his right hand pocket and produced a syringe. There was no cap on it. The men said Pierce was “acting like a bull” and then issued the threats of gouging.
Mr McShane managed to keep him a headlock while Fr Fitzpatrick held his wrist so he couldn’t use the syringe.
The priest later told gardaí that he had no doubt that Pierce would have injured them had they not restrained him, while Mr McShane said the thief kept trying to put his finger in his eye.
Gda Geraghty said when Pierce was arrested he had a bent piece of wire with Sellotape stuck to the end of it.
He later admitted in interviewed that he had gone to the church to try and take the change from the box. He spotted the woman and was about to leave when Fr Fitzpatrick and Mr McShane approached him.
He denied using the syringe to threaten the men but accepted that it was his and that he had used it earlier that day.
Gda Geraghty said Fr Fitzpatrick was shocked and “taken aback” by the incident. He also had sympathy for Pierce when he learned of his drug addiction and was hopeful that the man would get help to deal with his habit.
Gda Geraghty agreed with David Staunton BL, defending that Pierce had been using a technique known as fishing to try and get coins form the poor box to feed his €40 a day drug habit.
He agreed that although the syringe was un-capped, it was not filled with blood.
Mr Staunton said his client was appalled by his behaviour and had not intended to hurt anyone at any stage.
He said he was strung out on drugs at the time and living a chaotic life.