A Circuit Criminal Court judge has slammed how a youth arrested for arson in Westport received just a slap on the wrists and wasn’t brought before the courts.
The youth, who cannot be named because of his age, was one of two people who admitted setting alight the house in Westport on February 9, 2011, causing €21,500 worth of damage.
However at the sentencing of his co-accused, Kieran Kelly (26) of 25, Michael Davitt Park, Westport last week at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Keenan Johnson was told that the youth was dealt with by the Juvenile Liasion Scheme, a garda scheme to deal with young offenders while not bringing them to the courts.
“I’m very concerned that the co-accused was dealt with in such a lenient fashion. It doesn’t seem fair to this man (Kelly),” said Judge Johnson.
He questioned how could he send Kelly to jail when the co-accused had got off with a slap on the wrists.
“My understanding is that the Juvenile Liaison Scheme was for first-off, minor offences. I can’t understand how this arson was deemed a minor offence. It beggars belief and flies in the face of the what the scheme was set up to do. My hands are tied in dealing with Mr Kelly because of what happened to the co-accused,” added Judge Johnson.
Garda Martin Kelly told the court that the accused had been drinking at 1, St Mary’s Villas, Westport on the night in question and that he and a youth had broken the front window of 2, St Mary’s Villas and subsequently they had thrown a lit fire-lighter through the broken window which set the living room ablaze.
There was no one in the council house at the time as Westport Town Council were renovating it. An 85-year-old man is ordinarily resident in it.
Kieran Kelly initially denied involvement but implicated himself when he rang the victim’s daughter and then rang the victim’s grandson, apologising for his involvement.
Garda Kelly told the court that there has been a long-running dispute between the family of the juvenile and the victim. He said Kieran Kelly had no involvement in the dispute except that he often drank in the house of the juvenile’s family.
Garda Kelly added that there was no ill-will from the injured party’s family towards the accused and they were apportioning more blame towards the juvenile. Garda Kelly also expressed surprise at the lenient treatment of the juvenile.
The court heard that Kieran Kelly has previous convictions but none of a violent nature. Garda Kelly told the court that he knew Kieran Kelly since 2007 and that ‘on his own, he’s of good nature’ but is a different individual when with others and that drink, drugs and some of the people he hangs out with are obstacles towards rehabilitation.
A Probation Report said that Kelly was at a high risk of reoffence but the court heard he was off alcohol and drugs and was willing to move to Westmeath with his stepfather and work there. Judge Johnson adjourned sentencing for one year on the following terms - that Kelly leave Westport and live in Westmeath; that he seek employment or education; that he commences counselling; that he attend a doctor on a weekly basis for urine analysis, and any positive test for drugs or alcohol brings the matter back to court; that some compensation be addressed.
Judge Johnson gave Kelly one year to come up with €2,000 and said if he doesn’t comply with the terms, he will activate a four year prison sentence.