Tuesday 12 November 2019

Man involved in tiger kidnapping of Kilkenny All-Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan loses appeal against 10-year prison sentence

Stephen Freeman (27), of Ballcurris Gardens, Ballymun.
Stephen Freeman (27), of Ballcurris Gardens, Ballymun.
Adrian Ronan and his wife Mary leaving court.
Adrian Ronan in action during his hurling days

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A man involved in the tiger kidnapping of Kilkenny All Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family has lost an appeal against his 10 year prison sentence.

Stephen Freeman (28), of Ballcurris Gardens, Ballymun, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempted robbery with others at Bank of Ireland, Parliament Street, Kilkenny on November 3 2009.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Desmond Hogan on July 28 2015.

Dismissing Freeman's appeal against sentence today, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said it was “difficult to contemplate a more egregious form of attempted robbery”.

Mr Ronan and his wife awoke to find three armed masked men standing at the foot of their bed at 5am on the date in question, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Mrs Ronan was brought to the bathroom and restrained while her three children were brought downstairs at gunpoint.

He said the raiders demanded Mr Ronan to obtain €3 million from Bank of Ireland, where he worked, and that his wife would be shot if they did not meet their demands.

She was taken to a disused weather station and tied to a chair for eight hours while Mr Ronan drove himself and his three children to the bank where he informed his manager of the situation.

At 8.45am, he received a call and informed the caller that the most he would have was €60,000. This was unacceptable to the caller and he was told they would call again at 11.45am, the judge said.

Mr Ronan told the caller that there was a problem with the timelocks but he could make available €200,000 at 2pm and that he would have the money in the car park at that time.

Meanwhile, the raider who was guarding Mrs Ronan heard a car horn and left. She was able to free herself and was found in a distressed state by a priest and passer by.

Mr Justice Sheehan said it was accepted that Freeman was not involved in the planning of the crime nor had he attended the house. His role was to be available to move the money from one location in Kilkenny to another.

Although efforts were made to minimise the role he played, he was to be financially awarded by having certain gambling debts cancelled, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Furthermore, he was enthusiastic about his involvement, the judge said, and had engaged a person he knew to assist him in completing his part of the crime.

Mr Justice Sheehan said it was difficult to contemplate a more “egregious form of attempted robbery” adding that some five years later the Ronan family are still significantly traumatised by the events that occured.

He said the sentence imposed was “by no means excessive” and no error in principle had been identified.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the sentencing judge applied the principle of proportionality and then proceeded to incorporate the penal aim of incentivising rehabilitation by suspending a portion of Freeman's sentence.

He had also noted the impressive documentation handed into court on Freeman's behalf and and took all relevant mitigating factors into account inlcuding his gambling addiction.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, dismissed the appeal.

Freeman turned to family members and shrugged his shoulders after the court's decision was delivered.

His barrister, Feargal Kavanagh SC, submitted that the sentencing judge erred in sentencing Freeman as a major player in the absence of such evidence, erred in giving insufficient weight to admissions, expressions of remorse and his young age and that the sentence was excessive.

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