Monday 22 January 2018

Man sentenced for arson attack at apartment complex for homeless people

Stock Picture
Stock Picture

Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

A young man has been given a three year sentence for his role in an arson attack at an apartment complex which was used to accommodate homeless people.

Gary Fitzgerald (19) was living with his cousin Graham Fitzgerald (21) next door to the apartment that went on fire.

Gardaí have been unable to establish what caused the fire in the bedroom of the unoccupied apartment in a complex that was run by Focus Ireland for homeless people.

Gary Fitzgerald of Stocking Well Wood, Stocking Well, Ballycullen, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to arson at Green Hills Court Apartments, Tallaght on March 26, 2015. He has seven previous convictions including road traffic and assault.

His cousin Graham Fitzgerald also pleaded guilty to arson at his neighbour's home in Green Hills Court Apartments on the same occasion and attempted robbery at Milanos, Abberley Square North, Tallaght on February 14, 2016. Graham has four previous convictions including criminal damage and public order.

The court heard that gardaí managed to get the building evacuated and no resident was in immediate danger. Damage amounting to €45,000 was done to the apartment, mainly due to electric work and replacement furniture.

Judge Melanie Greally had adjourned the case to Thursday after hearing the evidence last year to allow a probation report be prepared on Gary. She adjourned Graham's case for a further two weeks until February 9 next to see if a bed in a drug rehabilitation centre would be available.

Judge Greally said she had adjourned the case on the last occasion to give Gary a chance due to his “extreme youth” but noted he had continued to abuse drugs. She said she was giving him credit for his early plea and noted he had taken intoxicants prior to the offence.

She imposed a three year sentence and suspended the final six months. She ordered one year post release supervision.

Detective Garda Kieran McGrath told John Fitzgerald BL, prosecuting that gardaí were alerted to intruders at the Green Hill Court Apartments, on the Green Hills Road in Tallaght at 3am on March 26, 2015.

When gardaí arrived there was a fire in an apartment on the first floor. Officers used forced to enter the building as they were concerned for residents and spotted the fire in the bedroom. After some time they established that the apartment was empty.

Det Gda McGrath said the smoke was so heavy that gardaí had to leave and the whole complex was ultimately evacuated. The lady who runs the complex confirmed that the resident who usually occupied that particular apartment wasn't there at the time.

It was established that Gary and Graham Fitzgerald were living in the apartment that was next door to the one that had been on fire. The balconies were beside each other and they were identified as the intruders.

CCTV footage played to the court showed the Fitzgeralds attempting to get into their own apartment before they try to get onto the balcony of the one next door.

Both men were arrested. Graham Fitzgerald later said in interview that he had a row with the resident in the apartment next door during which his own cheek was bitten. He denied climbing onto the balcony or starting the fire.

Gary Fitzgerald made no admissions during interview.

Det Gda McGrath agreed with Garnet Orange SC, defending Graham that there was no evidence to indicate how the fire had started but photographs suggested that the mattress in the bedroom had been set on fire.

He accepted that the other residents in the complex got out in time and nobody was in any immediate danger.

Damien Colgan SC defending, Gary Fitzgerald said he had been living with his cousin Graham at the time. He had taken tablets that night and was not fit to be interviewed by gardaí initially.

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