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Man who assaulted French students in violent robbery escapes jail sentence after 'turning his life around'

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Criminal Courts of Justice

Criminal Courts of Justice

Criminal Courts of Justice

A man who assaulted and tied up two French students in their bedrooms during a violent night burglary has been given a suspended sentence, after a judge praised him for “turning his life around”.

During the break-in at the house in April 2011, the two terrified victims woke up to find two men armed with knives in their home.

Stuart Whelan (28) of Keeper Road, Drimnagh, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to falsely imprisoning a man and woman at Herberton Road, Rialto on April 4, 2011.

Whelan also pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Brian Fearon and possession of a knife at Cork Street on November 25, 2009. During this attack, Whelan stabbed the victim in the leg, severing his artery and causing life-threatening injuries.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring sentenced Whelan to five years in prison but suspended it in full for three years.

She said Whelan had been a threat to the community from 2009 to 2011 and had committed very serious offences, but had since reformed himself “against the odds”.

“I don't believe in miracles but I do believe in hard work, and you've worked hard,” she said.

The court heard Whelan is a “completely different person” since he took part in the Betel Drug Rehabilitation programme. He volunteers in various charities, works part-time and has trained in Addiction Studies.

Gardaí said Whelan has caused no trouble since 2011.

The court heard that the two French students were terrified when Whelan and a co-accused broke into their house in April 2011. Laura Boucila, a foreign student at Griffith College, woke up to find a man in her bedroom.

This man put his hand over her mouth and demanded money and her laptop before holding a 30cm long knife to her neck. Another man, also armed with a knife, came into the bedroom and asked for money.

The raiders then went into the bedroom of the woman’s housemate, Paul Barraud, and demanded his car keys.

When Mr Barraud said he didn’t own a car the men kicked him in the face and stabbed his arm before stealing a laptop, a camera and two mobile phones.  The burglars then used computer cables to tie up the two students.

The woman told gardaí later that she had feared for her life.

Whelan, a father-of-one, has 90 previous convictions including drug dealing and criminal damage.

The court heard that shortly after the stabbing in November 2009, both Whelan and his co-accused Harry McDonagh (24) were caught in the victim's stolen car.

Judge Ring accepted that the victim, Brian Fearon, had instigated the assault by holding a knife up to the two men while they were sitting in a café with a baby.

Whelan took a large serrated knife from the café's kitchen and gave chase. The victim fell outside the Coombe Hospital and was held down by McDonagh while Whelan stabbed him in the leg.

An artery in Mr Fearon's leg was severed and he went into cardiac arrest and had an operation but has since recovered.

Whelan also pleaded guilty to criminal damage on St Anthony’s Road, Rialto, Dublin, resisting arrest and threatening to kill a garda at Kevin Street Garda Station on April 6, 2011

Paul Greene SC, defending, said Whelan was “totally out of control and out of his head” when he committed the crimes.

Judge Ring said she was taking all three cases into account when she delivered the five-year suspended sentence.

McDonagh was earlier sentenced to three and a half years in jail with the final two years suspended for the 2009 attack, after the court took note of his efforts at rehabilitation.


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