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'If I had the option I would impose a life sentence... to protect society' - judge


Michael Martin is taken from Portlaoise Circuit Court after having been given a 17-year sentence

Michael Martin is taken from Portlaoise Circuit Court after having been given a 17-year sentence

James Flynn/APX

Michael Martin is taken from Portlaoise Circuit Court after having been given a 17-year sentence

A judge praised the "natural instinct" of a young boy who "swung into action" to save his sister from abduction.

Michael Martin (36) was given a 17-year sentence, with the final four years suspended, for false imprisonment in Co Laois last March. He had 92 previous convictions and was on bail for robbery charges at the time.

Judge Keenan Johnson said "the detection and apprehension of the accused was a great piece of detective work" which was aided by the keen observations of three children.

Twin boys aged 10 and their 11-year-old sister had been playing at Cullohill in Co Laois when the accused approached in an SUV on March 4.

He grabbed the girl and pushed her into the passenger seat of the SUV. As he did so, the girl's brother attacked Martin.

He then clung onto the side of the SUV as Martin attempted to drive away. During the boy's attack on Martin, the young girl was able to escape.

"They were able to describe the accused, the vehicle he was driving, and also to give details of part of the registration plate. I also note with satisfaction that the Garda investigation into this matter was considerably helped by the co-operation and assistance offered to them by the local community," Judge Johnson said.

He described the incident as "extremely frightening" for the children and said the girl was fortunate that her brother was present. Judge Johnson said the boy's "natural instinct to protect his sister swung into action once he saw the danger she was in.

"He was extremely brave and showed great presence of mind, maturity beyond his years and leadership.

"All three children are a credit to their family. Their father also deserves great credit for the speed with which he reported the matter to the gardaí," Judge Johnson added.

Having read a detailed forensic psychological report on the accused, Judge Johnson concluded that Martin was at high risk of reoffending. The report, he said, "makes for disturbing reading". He added that "the accused's background is both chaotic and unhappy".

The judge said that after his arrest, Martin, with an address at Shandon Court, Yellow Road, Waterford city, hadn't made admissions - even after being identified by two of the children in identity parades.

It was only after the Garda forensic investigation found fibres from the girl's clothes in the SUV, that the accused admitted involvement in the attempted abduction.

The judge told Portlaoise Circuit Court yesterday: "I think it is well worth reflecting on the enormous amount of resources that went into the investigation at very short notice.

"In investigations of this type of crime, time is of the essence. I'm advised that the gardaí deployed huge resources and this, combined with the detailed information which the children were able to provide, led to the apprehension of the accused within a little over 24 hours.

"This was a remarkable achievement and deserves to be acknowledged."

Judge Johnson noted the family's victim impact statement, which outlined how the family "were permanently changed as a consequence of the offence".

The statement, written by the children's father, states that a significant portion of the child's innocence had been stolen.

The family now live in the USA and Judge Johnson noted "the shocking irony of this case is the fact that Ireland would be expected to provide a safe environment for children".

One can only imagine the family's sense of shock and betrayal, he said, before wishing the family well for the future.

Irish Independent