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Reforming addict gets suspended term for armed raid

A MAN has been given a three and half year suspended sentence for his role in an armed raid on a building society during which staff and customers were threatened with a replica gun.

Leonard Clarke (24) was a lookout in the general area to let the three raiders know if gardai were on patrol.

He later picked up the robbers after they abandoned the getaway car nearby.

Clarke of Coolock Drive, Coolock, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery of EBS, Vernon Avenue, Clontarf on May 21, 2008.

He had 18 previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Garda Lisa Sheehan told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that the getaway car, a Honda Civic was stolen from a building site the previous day.

The building society was raided at 4.30pm after the three men forced open the doors. Two men wearing balaclavas approached the counter and demanded cash after pointing an imitation gun at a customer.

A staff member, who later described herself as being in fear for her own and the customer’s safety, handed over €3,550 before the robbers fled in the waiting Civic.

Another customer in the EBS later told gardai that when the raiders entered the building she was grabbed by the jacket and told not to move. She was left shocked and afraid.

The car was abandoned nearby and Clarke picked up the men to allow them to make their getaway.

Gda Sheehan said Clarke was stopped by gardai in this second vehicle a short time later and he was arrested. He later made admissions following six interviews with gardai.

Gda Sheehan agreed with Bernard Condon SC, defending, that Clarke’s admissions were significant to the investigation.

She further accepted that he was not the organiser or planner of the robbery and was “somewhat divorced” from the raid.

Clarke’s sister, Rachael, told Mr Condon that she reared her brother and other siblings from the time she was nine years old after her parents started taking drugs.

She said in late 2007 Clarke’s father committed suicide and her brother and his partner lost a baby. He took to drugs but has since started self-medicating after buying methadone on the streets.

Ms Clarke said her brother calls to her house everyday where she gives him his daily dose of methadone and he stays with her in the evening.

Mr Condon said it was “a shocking error of judgement” that led his client to getting involved in this offence.

He said Clarke takes care of his two young children while his partner goes out to work and submitted that he was not likely to come before the courts again.

Judge Martin Nolan accepted that Clarke had not been the driving force behind the robbery but knew it was going on.

“I am happy that he was a bit player and while he had an important role it was a lesser role than the other participants,” the judge said.

He accepted that Clarke has demonstrated “a capability to reform” before he suspended the entire three and half year term on condition that he keep the peace for that period and remain under probation supervision for 18 months.