Sunday 20 January 2019

Teenager caused over €50k damage at Oberstown campus

A 16-year-old boy who caused over €50,000 in damage to Oberstown Children Detention Campus during four separate stand-offs with staff, has been sentenced to four years in prison.

On one occasion Michael Ward, now 18, set fire to a room in the detention centre, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard at an earlier hearing last March.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of criminal damage to the centre in Lusk, on January 3, February 26, September 8 and October 31, 2016. Two further counts of assault and theft were taken into account.

During the four incidents, Ward caused damage to furniture, security doors and windows, a CCTV camera and electrical equipment.

The court heard Ward, with an address in Gleann Riada, Strokestown Road, Co Longford, spent two years in detention in Oberstown from the age of 15. He has 33 previous convictions, including theft, criminal damage, burglary, robbery and unauthorised taking of vehicles.

Judge Patricia Ryan sentenced Ward to four years in prison with the final year suspended. She also ordered that he be under the supervision of the Probation Service for two years upon his release.

Judge Ryan said the court was obliged to take into account the fact that Ward was a child at the time but said they were very violent and aggressive incidents which must have caused 'a high degree of anxiety amongst staff and other residents'.

She also took into account that they were not isolated incidents.

She noted that Ward got on well in Oberstown overall, had made efforts to rehabilitate and had expressed remorse. She also accepted that he had the support of his grandmother

Garda Eoin McDonnell told Marie Torrens BL, prosecuting, that in the first incident in January 2016, Ward was in a multi-purpose room with another young person when he became aggressive.

Staff left the room in fear for their safety and over the next three hours, Ward caused over €4,300 in damage to the room, including furniture, doors and electrical equipment.

In the second incident in February 2016, Ward and two other people again became aggressive and violent towards staff.

They started a fire in a multi-purpose room during a stand-off that lasted for four hours. It ended only when gardaí intervened, the court heard. A CCTV camera and furniture were damaged in that incident at a cost of €9,190.

In the third incident in September 2016, Ward threw a laptop at a teacher before engaging in a stand-off by himself for three-and-a-half hours. About €14,000 worth of damage was incurred, including damage to furniture and electrical equipment.

In the final incident in October 2016, Ward snatched a key fob from a staff member. He and a co-accused then locked themselves in the gym, armed themselves with a metal bar and weights and engaged in a stand-off with staff for four hours. Ward repeatedly punched one staff member who attempted to intervene, the court heard. Over €24,500 in damage was incurred during that incident.

All of the incidents were captured on CCTV. The total damage came to €52,226.

Ward was arrested in February 2017 and made immediate admission to gardaí. He said he was sorry and wanted to turn his life around.

Defence barrister, Dean Kelly BL, told the court Ward is originally from the Tallaght area and had a 'very, very difficult' childhood. Both of his parents are drug addicts and have had little to do with him throughout his life. He was mostly cared for by his grandmother.

Mr Kelly handed up a number of reports which showed that in between these incidents, Ward made good educational and personal progress in Oberstown.

He sat his Junior Cert while in the centre and had expressed a desire to sit his Leaving Cert.

He was released from Oberstown last January but was placed in custody in Cloverhill a short time later after he allegedly took a car without authorisation.

He was not working nor in receipt of social welfare during the short time he was released, the court heard.

Fingal Independent