Friday 23 March 2018

Thief (42) 'in and out of jail since the age of 9 doesn't want to return to life of crime'

Sonya McLean

A prolific burglar who claims he has been in prison since he was nine years old has told a judge that “the penny has finally dropped” and he doesn’t want to return to his life of crime.

Owen McDonald (42) handed himself into gardaí in December 2011 and confessed to a burglary. He was immediately interviewed and admitted five other burglaries committed between October 12 and November 23, 2011.

Garda Robert Madden told Fergal Foley that McDonald’s confession was of considerable assistance to the gardaí as many of the homeowners had not reported the burglaries.

McDonald told gardaí: “I would like to say I came here of my own free will and would not have carried out any of these burglaries if it had not been for my very bad heroin addiction.”

However, the court heard that he committed two further burglaries in February and September 2012.

Garda Brendan Dunne told Mr Foley that when McDonald was arrested for the final burglary in September he was on bail in relation to seven separate burglaries, a theft and a road traffic offence.

Gda Dunne said the owner of the house in this final burglary had been asleep when McDonald broke into the house. The person ran from the house when they saw the intruder and had been very frightened by the incident.

McDonald of Dunsink Drive, Finglas West, was before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to the eight burglaries on dates between October 12 2011 and September 19, 2012.

Only one of the houses was occupied at the time and nothing was taken during three burglaries.

The court heard that the items taken included cash, laptops, digital cameras, a phone and male clothing.

Judge Ring sentenced him to four years imprisonment and suspended the final two and a half years on strict conditions including that he undergo 18 months post release supervision, engage with the Probation Service and attend for drug rehabilitation on his release.

McDonald who has 82 previous convictions for burglary dating back to 1998 told Judge Ring that he has a very serious heroin addiction for 20 years. The court heard he had an additional 59 convictions.

“I have been successful in rehabilitation on a few occasions but have slipped back again,” McDonald said before he added that he had been in prison all his life.

He said he wished to “humbly apologise” and added he couldn’t “apologise enough” to the homeowner for being in their house when they were there.

“I ashamed that I am sitting here, at my age, before the courts. I have missed all my children grow up but I am now clean of drugs,” he continued.

“I don’t want to come back to his life. I have been locked up since the age of nine and the penny has finally dropped,” McDonald told Judge Ring.

Judge Ring had adjourned the case having first heard evidence earlier this year to allow for urine analysis and a governor’s report which had previously been ordered but were not before the court.

The judge said it was an understatement to say he was a prolific burglar but noted he had little to show for his long career and had indicated he was ashamed.

Fiona Murphy BL, defending, said it was sad that her client’s view that to burglar a house with no one there was the least offensive way to feed his addiction.

She said he now realises that people find it difficult to deal with the fact that there has been an intruder in their home.

Ms Murphy said McDonald has a supportive partner and they have two children together.

She suggested that her client had “met the case well” and he had given the evidence which had led to the prosecution against him.

Detective Garda Tighe O’Leary told Mr Foley that he was on patrol in February 2012 when he received a call about a burglary. McDonald was later identified as the culprit from fingerprints taken from a back window in the house.

He was arrested and made full admissions.

Det Gda O’Leary agreed with Ms Murphy that the house was unoccupied at the time and McDonald claimed he had knocked on the door first to see if anyone was at home.

Gda Dunne said he arrived at the house that was burgled in September 2012 and caught McDonald in the back garden. He had a laptop under his arm and did not resist arrest.

He agreed  with Ms Murphy that it seemed to be McDonald’s modus operandi to check if there was anyone in the house at the time before going in.

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