Friday 15 December 2017

Man seeks to avoid jail sentence after second robbery charge

A MAN is asking the High Court to stop moves to activate an eight-year suspended jail sentence he got for a bank robbery after he was charged over another robbery nearly 12 months later.

In February 2008, Alan Freeman (33) walked free from court following a plea of guilty for the armed robbery from a bank in Rathdowney, Co Laois, in 2004, along with an offer to repay the €10,000 taken in the raid from the proceeds of a personal injuries compensation claim he had received.  Judge Desmond Hogan, who suspended the eight-year term for six years, took into account his "high level of contrition with a practical form".

The following January (2009), four masked and armed men attacked the home of a firearms dealer near Carrick-on-Suir and took 42 firearms after subjecting the family to a four-hour ordeal.

Subsequently, Mr Freeman and another man were charged in connection with that raid and Freeman's trial, on charges of aggravated burglary and robbery, began in Kilkenny on February 5 last.  He pleaded not guilty and the trial continued into a third week when he changed his plea to guilty on a lesser charge of theft.

Yesterday, the High Court heard he was claiming he only changed his plea following a promise from Waterford-based Detective Superintendent Dominic Hayes that the suspended sentence for the bank robbery would not be activated once he did so.

However, as soon as he changed his plea, he was remanded in custody and is due back before Judge Hogan in two weeks when an application will be made to activate the suspended prison term.

DS Hayes has strongly denied offering any inducement to Freeman.  He said in an affidavit he did not tell Freeman he would "get my people in Dublin to look after his suspended sentence".

Mr Freeman is asking the High Court to quash a decision by Circuit Court judge Gerard Griffin who found that while DS Hayes had been in discussions with Freeman prior to his change of plea, these were over matters unrelated to the trial over the Carrick-on-Suir burglary.

Mr Freeman claims the nature of inducements offered to him by DS Hayes amount to a serious interference with the fair conduct of a criminal trial and was an abuse of process.  It is also claimed that this was in breach of a order, made by Judge Griffin during the burglary trial, that there be no contact between gardai and Mr Freeman during the trial

The State denies the claims and says Mr Freeman had the benefit of legal advice at all times, that the contact between DS Hayes and Mr Freeman had nothing to do with the trial and that Judge Griffin was correct in finding in favour of the State.

High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he would give his decision on the matter next week.

In an affidavit, Mr Freeman, formerly from Clondalkin in Dublin, now living in Pearse Park, Tipperary Town, said he had a number of phone contacts and personal meetings with DS Hayes during the burglary trial.  The officer told him if he changed his plea to guilty he would get another garda to speak up for him at sentencing, he said.

He said DS Hayes also told him he (Hayes) would "stick to my promise" in relation to the suspended sentence for the bank robbery.

DS Hayes, in a replying affidavit, says he made no such promises, either in relation to the suspended sentence or to get someone to speak up for him over the Carrick-on-Suir charge.

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