Gang had taken drink, cocaine and ‘head shop’ product
A Ballinrobe man who applied to join the Garda Síochána Reserve Force subsequently broke into an apartment in the town in the middle of the night with two others, while a couple and their 15-month-old son lay sleeping.
Martin Sweeney (20) of 50 Church View, Ballinrobe, was before court with Jamie Ward (21) of 59 Church View and another 17-year-old male who cannot be named because of his age.
The gang of three were charged with breaking into an apartment at Brewery Court in the town in the early hours of August 11, 2010. The victims of the attack requested that their names not be publicised.
Castlebar Circuit Court heard that Sweeney broke into the property by kicking in the front door and that Sweeney had been in a dispute with the father of the child in the apartment.
Bungled, ‘amateurish’ attack
The adult male victim was woken in his bedroom to the sight of three people brandishing long kitchen knives. Even though they had hoods pulled over their faces and were trying to speak in a Dublin accent, the victim quickly recognised the three of them. The attack was described as ‘amateurish’.
His phone and his partner’s phone were taken and the attackers demanded the keys to his car. The adult male victim said in an interview to Gardaí that he witnessed the trio failing to start his car before one of them then lit the driver’s seat and set the car alight. All the toys belonging to their then 15-month-old son were in the car.
In victim impact statements, both of the adult victims said they were afraid to come into Ballinrobe now and had left the town. The mother of the child said that she had to leave her family and was afraid she or her child might be attacked when she does return to Ballinrobe.
Attackers offers victims €1,000
In an interview with Gardaí, Martin Sweeney said that on the night in question he had taken cocaine and drank 20 bottles of beer. The court heard that he had no previous convictions and that the incident was ‘out of character’. His barrister, Conall McCarthy, read out a note of apology from Sweeney where he regretted his actions and said: ‘I hope you (victims) can find it in your hearts to forgive me’. Sweeney had brought €1,000 to the court for the vicitims as a ‘concrete expression of remorse’, said Mr McCarthy.
He added that Sweeney had previously applied to join the Garda Síochána Reserve Force and while that was now knocked on the head, it was an indicator of how he wanted to contribute positively to society.
Eoin Garavan, barrister for Ward, also read out a letter of remorse from his client. He said that the probation report for Ward shows he has empathy for the victims and he didn’t realise the implications of what they did on the night at the time. He also had €1,000 in court for the victims and wanted to pay more in future.
Diarmuid Connolly, barrister for the 17-year-old youth, said his client had been drinking cider and using a product he obtained from a ‘Head Shop’ called ‘Wildcat’, a cocaine substitute. It was his first time socialising with the other two defendants. He said that his client, now aged 17 but 16 at the time of the attack, had recently become a father and was very remorseful for what he did.
Describing the facts as ‘most disturbing’, Judge Tony Hunt said that at a minimum a period in jail was required for the two adult defendants. As this offence occurred within six months of a three-month suspended sentence Ward received in Dublin, suspended on the basis that he keep the peace for six months, that matter would have to return to Dublin before the Ballinrobe incident could be finalised in Castlebar.
Judge Hunt remanded Sweeney and Ward in custody to appear back before Castlebar Circuit Court on January 16 next. The youth was remanded on bail to the same date, one of the conditions of bail being that he continues to stay out of Ballinrobe.