Friday 23 February 2018

Two men who wanted drug debt 'straightener' -jailed for stabbing targets' father

Sonya McClean

Two men who barged their way into the home of two brothers because they claimed they wanted a “straightener” over a drug debt have been jailed for stabbing the men’s fathers.

Mel O’Brien (19) and James Douglas (33) arrived at the home of Daragh and Jason O’Sullivan in Ashlawn Park, Ballybrack at 3.40am and woke their mother Carol.

They later stabbed Robert Butler and Paul Griffin when these men came to the house having been informed by Carol O’Sullivan by text that O’Brien and another man were in her home.

The victims were taken to hospital where Mr Griffin was treated for a perforated lung and multiple stab wounds to his chest and back. He remained in hospital until the following week.

Mr Butler needed stitches to his arm as well as to his face to close a 4cm wound close to his left eye.

O’Brien of Bentley House, Dun Laoghaire, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Paul Griffin causing him harm, while Douglas of Rathsallagh Park, Shankill, pleaded guilty to assaulting Robert Butler causing him harm on September 27, 2012.

O’Brien has 44 previous convictions for offences including robbery, theft, assault and criminal damage while Douglas’s 15 convictions are for road traffic and public order offences.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring sentenced O’Brien to three years in prison with the final 12 months suspended

Douglas, a father of five, was sentenced to three and half years with the final 12 months after the judge noted that he pleaded guilty at a later stage to his co-accused.

She said it was fortunate the men were not facing more serious charges and said “any reference to money owing due to drugs” didn’t mitigate their behaviour on the night.

She accepted that O’Brien had significant childhood difficulties, having been taken into care at 11 years old, and that Douglas had an on-going struggle with alcohol.

Garda Shane Doyle agreed with Michael Bowman BL, defending O’Brien, that the O’Sullivan brothers were on trial yesterday before Judge Patricia Ryan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for criminal damage and trespass.

The case collapsed today after the State’s main witness did not turn up and the trial was adjourned to January to fix a new date.

Gda Doyle accepted that O’Brien admitted causing the injuries but maintained that he was there to have a pre-arranged “straightener” with the O’Sullivans over a €200 drug debt.

The garda accepted that the brothers have significant drug problems and that there was “some beef” between them and O’Brien.

O’Brien claimed in interview that the straightener had been organised “to resolve the issue”

He told gardaí that the O’Sullivans arrived with re-enforcements and claimed that the men were armed with “an eight ball covered in a sock” and a hammer.

He also claimed that Ms O’Sullivan had invited him into the house for a cup of tea after telling him that he was the image of his mother. He said she enquired after his family in general and said she was sorry to hear about the recent death of his brother.

Mr Bowman said his client also claimed that Ms O’Sullivan had offered cash to prevent the “straightener”.

Gda Doyle told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting that when O’Brien and Douglas were informed that the brothers were not in, they barged their way in and asked her for money while Douglas, who was carrying a small bar, threatened to damage her car.

Ms O’Sullivan later got an opportunity to text the girlfriend of one of her sons and tell her that O’Brien and another man were in the house.

She then returned to the kitchen and saw O’Brien pick up knives and hand one to Douglas.

The girlfriend happened to be out with the O’Sullivan brothers and their father’s Paul Griffin and Robert Butler. The four men arrived at the house soon after and while the brothers went to the back of the house, the other two went into the kitchen.

Mr Griffin wrestled with Douglas, who was holding a large knife, in an attempt to get him out of the house. He was stabbed twice in the back by O’Brien and a third time after he fell towards him.

Ms O’Sullivan managed to pull O’Brien to the ground, while Mr Butler punched Douglas who punched him back.

Mr Butler was then stabbed in the arm and chased out of the house by Douglas who stabbed him in the face after the victim fell to the ground.

Douglas told his counsel Justin McQuade BL, that he was a qualified brick layer who works on a voluntary basis on gardens in the local community.

He said he was drunk on the night and his behaviour was “out of character”. He had written a letter of apology to the court.

Mr McQuade said that Douglas had “hoped the matter would go away” and had buried his head in the sand before pleading guilty just before his trial.

Mr Bowman said O’Brien also offers an apology but added that his client felt that if he hadn’t done what he had done, he would have been beaten to death.

Counsel said O’Brien had spent much of his later childhood in various foster care homes but submitted that he is “not without promise” and had been dealing with his drug addiction.

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