Thug who twice terrorised OAP avoids jail again
A 22-year-old Clare man has avoided jail again for his role in two robberies which caused a pensioner to cycle 30 miles through the night in terror to check himself into a nursing home.
Joseph Lernihan, with an address at Finnuremore Park, Mullagh, Co Clare, had pleaded guilty at Ennis Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of robbery at the home of the then 68-year-old Michael McMahon on two separate occasions in February 2012.
On March 3, 2014, Judge Carroll Moran gave Lernihan an entirely suspended three-year sentence, ordered him to pay €3,780 compensation and ordered that a Volkswagen Passat that he purchased with the proceeds of his crime be forfeited.
The Court of Appeal agreed last week with counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sinead McGrath BL, that Lernihan's wholly suspended sentence was unduly lenient.
However, the court refrained from imposing a prison sentence on him because incarceration now might "jeopardise the progress" he had made since original sentencing and he was ordered to undertake 240 hours of community service in lieu of a 12-month sentence.
Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal yesterday, Mr Justice George Birmingham told Lernihan that he was "absolutely, positively on your last chance".
Mr Justice Birmingham said quite a number of people "will feel you ought not to get that chance".
He told him that many will feel he was lucky to get a chance the first time and "you are lucky" to get another one this time around.
The judge told Lernihan that if he got himself into trouble again there would not be a further chance and if he came back before the courts again for any misconduct the court would feel he was throwing the chance "back in the court's face".
Giving background to the case Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said Michael McMahon lived alone in a rural part of West Clare.
It seemed his lifestyle was quite a simple one, the judge said. His house had neither water or electricity and he had carried out temporary repairs on his home following the first robbery by placing blocks of turf where the windows had been broken.
On the first occasion, Lernihan went with a number of others to the home of Mr McMahon, broke several windows and demanded money. Mr McMahon was terrified and handed over three jars containing €4,000 through the windows.
The next day Mr McMahon went to the bank and withdrew €3,000. He had inherited a sum of money from a relative in the US and his practice was to withdraw sums and to live off the sum for a period of months.
Four days later, Lernihan and others returned to the home of Mr McMahon. A pipe-like object made to resemble a gun was pushed through the windows, Mr McMahon was told it was a gun and if he left the room he'd be shot. This time €3,000 was taken.
They also came across his bank book and when they saw the figures they told him to withdraw €50,000 and have it ready for their return.
Mr McMahon was terrified and fled on his bike.