Saturday 20 July 2019

Burglar claims dealer held a gun to his head

Swords District Court
Swords District Court

Nicola Donnelly

A burglar who broke into a house, ransacked it and stole items claimed he was forced to commit the offence after he had a gun held to his head because of a drug debt.

Just hours beforehand, John Finn (32) went into a hardware store and stole three screw drivers and gloves to be used in the burglary.

He has been sentenced to four months in prison for the offence after a judge told him it is 'horrific and unforgivable' to invade someone's sanctuary.

The defendant, of Cromcastle Close, Kilmore West pleaded guilty to burglary at a house on Limetree Avenue in Portrane on May 14, 2018.

He also pleaded guilty to the theft of three screwdrivers worth €45 and a pair of Maxiflex gloves worth €10 from Woodies in Coolock on the same date.

The defendant has nine previous convictions including road traffic and drug offences.

Sergeant Anthony McNulty gave evidence that two neighbours had observed the burglary. The house was ransacked and there was damage done to the house. The occupants of the house were not at home at the time of the burglary.

A culprit had fled the house carrying a suitcase. Finn was subsequently identified on CCTV and arrested.

During the defendant's detention gardai identified him from CCTV committing the theft earlier in the day at Woodies DIY.

Defence barrister Annette Kealy said the defendant made full admissions in the garda station and told gardai he had a gun put to his head as he owed money.

Reading from his statement given to gardai, Ms Kealy said the defendant said: 'I had no choice. I had a gun put to my head two days ago. I am very sorry.'

When asked if he wanted gardai to investigate who put the gun to his head, the defendant replied: 'No, I'll get myself killed.'

Sgt McNulty confirmed that no complaint was made to gardai in relation to that incident.

Ms Kealy said the defendant, who lost his job as a carpenter, got involved in taking drugs in 2017.

'He began to involve himself with certain people and was asked to hold drugs. He didn't want to do that and passed the drugs to someone else. That person left with the drugs, leaving the defendant owing the debt,' Ms Kealy explained.

She said the defendant 'knows the trauma' a burglary would cause to house owners.

'He is not taking drugs anymore and rarely drinks,' said Ms Kealy, adding that the defendant is applying for jobs.

'He wants to compensate the owners for the damage he caused and he bitterly regrets his actions. He realises how very serious it is and apologises.'

Judge Gerry Jones said he regards 'someone breaking into a home most serious'.

'For a person living in the house to be confronted by a stranger is horrific and unforgivable. People have died because of similar,' remarked Judge Jones, adding that it was 'lucky no resident was home'.

But they came home to find their house ransacked and burgled,' he said.

'To invade someone's sanctuary results in prison and I am sentencing you to four months,' said Judge Jones and ordered gardai to 'put him in custody straight away'.

He fixed recognisances in the event of an appeal.

Fingal Independent