Friday 19 October 2018

Homeless woman with 63 previous convictions admits carrying out burglary at home of Joan Burton

Joan Burton Pic: Tom Burke
Joan Burton Pic: Tom Burke

Tom Tuite

A HOMELESS woman suffering from chronic alcohol and heroin addictions has admitted carrying out a "opportunistic" burglary at the home of former tanaiste Joan Burton.

The incident happened when the Labour TD had gone out to give a talk at a community crime prevention meeting on Monday evening. However, she had to leave early after learning about the break-in.

The woman was arrested and taken to the Bridewell Garda station before being brought to appear before Judge Brian O’Shea at Dublin District Court on Tuesday.

Mother-of-two, Emma O’Callaghan, 43, of no fixed address, had given the name Elaine Waters when she was charged with trespassing at the house on Old Cabra Road, Dublin on June 2 with intent to commit theft.

The offence is contrary to Section 12 of the Theft and Fraud Act.

Her case was adjourned and she had been refused bail on Tuesday as a result of a history of not turning up to court and having bench warrants issued.

The accused described as having a “chaotic” life had 63 prior convictions connected to her addictions, the court heard on Thursday when the case resumed.

Judge O’Shea amended the charge to include the defendant’s correct name and noted from defence solicitor Stephen O’Mahony that a guilty plea was being entered to the burglary and another 21 charges.

Her other addiction fuelled offences included: handling stolen goods, stealing charity boxes from shops, public order offences begging, and an assault on a shop worker for which she was given a nine-month sentence today.

But for the burglary at the politician’s home, sentencing was adjourned for three weeks to allow gardai to check if a victim impact statement will be provided to the court.

The court heard that at 8.05pm on July 2 gardai received reports of a woman jumping over a wall into the back garden of the politician’s house at the Old Cabra Road.

A window was removed and the accused was found inside the house which was empty at the time, the court heard.

Judge O’Shea was told O’Callaghan stole Turkish and Polish banknotes worth about €26 at the house but it had been recovered.

The judge asked if the house had been ransacked and the court Garda sergeant said the accused, “was going through the house at the time, she was in a room when caught”.

The judge sentenced O’Callaghan for the litany of other offences in Dublin going back to last October.

She stole items worth €13 from Penneys on O’Connell Street when she concealed the goods and tried to leave without paying on Oct. 8, 2017.

The court heard that she was arrested for begging at Nassau Street on Oct. 23 last.

On Nov. 11, at 12.10 pm gardai observed her injecting suspected heroin into her groin and she became verbally abusive officers, in front of tourists.

There were five charges for failing to turn up to court on three dates in November as well as two more in June and April.

The court heard that on the evening of Dec. 7 gardai saw her lying on the ground at the Central Bank Plaza. She was drunk holding cans of alcoholic drinks and became verbally abusive when told to bin them.

She stole a charity collection box, containing an unknown amount of money, at a Spar shop on James’s Street at 10.30 am on April 14 last. The money was not recovered.

The court heard that she stole another charity box containing €50 from at 12.35pm on May 8, at the Daybreak shop at Aston Quay. She ended up in a struggle with a shop worker who challenged her and left him with scratches and a cut to his hand.

On the afternoon of May 12 she again became abusive to gardai at Pearse Street after she was spotted drinking a can of an alcoholic beverage.

She was searched and found in possession of a debit card, banking documents, a phone and prescription medication which did not belong to her.

She had 63 prior criminal convictions for criminal damage, theft, possessing stolen property and public order offences.

She was given a six-month sentence in last year at Dublin District Court and one-month suspended sentence by a district court in Galway also in 2017.

Judge O’Shea heard the woman’s offending went back to 2007.

In pleas for leniency, defence solicitor Stephen O’Mahony asked the court to note she pleaded guilty. He described her as, “troubled by serious addictions most her adult life”.

He said primarily alcohol had been her problem and during that time she did not come to Garda attention.

However, she later became a heroin addict.

She had completed a course at the Coolmine addiction treatment centre and is now on methadone. The woman spoke briefly to explain her dosage had been reduced in half.

Her offending took places when she had relapses, the solicitor said.

She grew up in the Ballyfermot area in Dublin but had ties to Galway, the court was told.

Mr O’Mahony said the woman had been homeless which explained the number of warrants and had been “living from day to day”. She had also been sleeping rough as a result of attacks in hostels, the court was told.

Her crimes were opportunistic and when she needed money for drugs, Mr O'Mahony said.

He also said her general health was not good and she needed stability which custody would provide.

Sentencing, Judge O’Shea said O’Callaghan’s crimes had been, “on-going, repetitive, relentless offending on a daily, weekly and monthly basis”.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News