Wednesday 29 January 2020

Drunken trespasser says sorry to queen for climbing into castle

Robert Pennefather at Westminster
Magistrate's Court where he was given a suspended
sentence and a fine
Robert Pennefather at Westminster Magistrate's Court where he was given a suspended sentence and a fine
Queen Elizabeth, who was not in her private residence at the time of the incident
the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Pennefather was found

Shane Hickey in London

IT'S safe to say the queen was not amused. An Irishman has been told he will be jailed if he goes into any pub across the UK after he was found trespassing drunk in one of Queen Elizabeth's castles.

Robert Pennefather (32), a truck driver from Co Tipperary, yesterday apologised to the queen, Prince Philip and the police after he scaled an 8ft-high gate and entered the grounds of Windsor Castle on November 6 last year.

Armed police found Pennefather stumbling towards the castle and smelling of alcohol in the early hours of the morning after he had been drinking with friends in the area.

Westminster Magistrate's Court in London yesterday heard how officers were alerted after an alarm went off.

When they asked Pennefather if he had a pass to be there, he said: "What pass?".

The driver, who lives at Cois na hAbhainn in Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, was arrested some 20 metres from the private apartment of the queen. She was not there at the time.

The castle is a protected site and is signposted with warnings that trespassing is a crime.


When interviewed the next morning by police, he said he had entered through the Cambridge Gate area after drinking in a number of clubs in the picturesque town of Windsor.

He said he could not remember how he got into the grounds and actually thought he was on his way out when he was arrested.

Prosecuting barrister Zoe Martin said the incident had involved officers from both Thames Valley police and the royal protection unit, putting resources under strain when they could have been doing other duties.

Pennefather had no previous convictions but had been cautioned by police in Merseyside for being drunk and disorderly when he was found to be urinating on the street in March last year.

Ms Martin said there was nothing to suggest he was any risk at the time other than the fact that he was "staggering around drunk" and that he was not carrying a weapon or any tool to gain access.

Ian Brownhill, counsel for Pennefather, said it was a case of "drunken folly", where his client had too many drinks and thought he was taking a short-cut.

The driver, who was staying in the cab of his truck, pleaded guilty to the offence, and had not intended any harm to the royal family.

The incident, which caused international headlines, had caused a great deal of stress for him and his wife, Mr Brownhill said.

"He apologises firstly to the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh; and secondly to SO14 (a police unit) and the royal protection unit," he said.

When questioned by chief magistrate Howard Riddle about a possible alcohol problem and whether he should be driving a truck, Mr Brownhill said background checks by Interpol had been clear.

Mr Riddle said this was a very serious matter, which was a "significant breach of security" and required a significant deployment of police officers.

He said that what was behind the incident was alcohol. Pennefather was given a suspended sentence of 14 days along with fines and costs of £1,100 (€1,316).

He was told the sentence was suspended on condition that he not enter any licensed premises in the United Kingdom over the next year.

Irish Independent

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