Thursday 23 January 2020

Man who started fire at Chief State Solicitors Office gets three year sentence

A man who started a fire in an office at the Chief State Solicitors Office in 2005 for no apparent reason has been given a three year sentence.

Earl McKevitt (41) broke a window of a ground floor office containing conveyancing files, poured in petrol and started the fire. There was no one in the building at the time.

McKevitt later absconded to England in 2007 before his trial and was returned to Ireland on foot of a European Arrest Warrant earlier this year when gardai discovered he was in custody serving a sentence in the UK.

The court heard McKevitt, who had minor convictions at the time, had “small dealings” with the Chief State Solicitors Office prior to the offence but gardai were satisfied there was no wider sinister agenda to the offence. He was abusing alcohol and drugs at the time.

McKevitt, formerly of Cooley Road, Drimnagh, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to arson at the offices on Little Ship Street on May 22, 2005. He has been in custody since his return to Ireland from the UK in February 2012.

Judge Martin Nolan noted that McKevitt had been addressing his problems while in custody and imposed a three year sentence.

Detective Garda Daniel Kelly told Eanna Mulloy SC, prosecuting, that emergency services arrived at the offices in the early hours of the morning after calls from local residents.

A plastic container containing carpet cleaning products and a cigarette lighter with a finger print on it were discovered nearby.

McKevitt had been working in the days prior to the offence as a carpet cleaner in adjoining buildings. McKevitt’s van was also discovered nearby on Ross Road.

Det Gda Kelly said an office window had been broken and accelerant poured in and set alight. The bulk of the damage was done in that office.

When McKevitt was arrested both his hands were badly burned, one more severely then the other. He was examined by a doctor but did not want his hands examined.

He was interviewed three times and told gardai he had injured his hands in a BBQ accident. He said he had spent the evening of the incident with his girlfriend.

Det Gda Kelly agreed with Judge Nolan that McKevitt had made no admissions and gave a misleading account of where he was.

McKevitt’s trial was listed for October 2007 but he left the jurisdiction some days beforehand. He was later discovered in custody in the UK and gardai sought a European Arrest Warrant.

McKevitt was returned to Ireland in February 2012 and has been in custody since.

Det Gda Kelly said McKevitt had a number of arrests prior to the incident and had been in contact with a different section of the Chief State Solicitors Office “in a small way” in the days before the incident, but said the damaged office contained conveyancing files.

Det Gda Kelly agreed with Sean Gillane SC, defending, that it was difficult to understand the rational behind the offence but gardai were satisfied there was nothing of wider sinister significance.

Mr Gillane said McKevitt came from a good family and had an unremarkable upbringing. He had a number of jobs before working as a carpet cleaner. He began to abuse alcohol, cannabis and then ecstasy. He said McKevitt was abusing alcohol and drugs on the night.

He said McKevitt continued his downward slide while in the UK but began to address his problem while in custody there. He continued this work on his return to Ireland this year.

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