Longford District Court: Post office raid was 'wanton criminality of highest level'

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A daring late night raid carried out at a Co Longford post office earlier this year and which resulted in thousands of euros worth of damage, has been labelled the “scourge of rural Ireland.”

Two men who carried out a late night burglary at a Co Longford post office three months ago have been sentenced to eight months in prison.


Jamie French, 24 Greenfort Park, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 and Lorcan Ross, Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10 were sentenced to eight months in prison last week following a break in at Bell’s Shop, Newtownforbes, Co Longford on August 2 2017.


Both men, already in custody serving sentences from unrelated charges, appeared before Judge Hughes as evidence in the case was read out in court.


The pair also pleaded guilty to the offence.


Inspector Bláithín Moran said gardaí were alerted to the incident shortly after 11pm.


When they arrived, officers noticed the front door of the shop had been damaged along with two tills.


The contents in both had been removed, she added.


Footage taken from a CCTV camera later identified Mr French as the first suspect to exit a car which had pulled up outside before attempting to break into the shop.


Lorcan Ross was the second individual to enter the premises, Inspector Moran added ahead of their exit from the scene seconds later.


Inspector Moran said the pair, together with two other co-accused were eventually arrested by gardaí later that night following a pursuit.


The damage to the tills, which had been linked to the business’ computer system and the premises’ front door totalled €3,000, it was revealed.


Inspector Moran added similar incidents involving the same individuals had also been reported in Carrick-on-Shannon and Strokestown that same evening.


Mr French, who had 15 previous convictions prior to the Newtownforbes raid, told Judge Hughes he had been in out of prison since the age of 18.
Asked by Judge Hughes why he was already in custody, the 24-year-old said it related to the reactivation of a 12 month sentence for burglary on October 5 2017.


His release date, the court was informed had been pencilled in for July 29 2018.


in defence, solictor Lorcan Gearty handed in a letter on behalf of his client which explained how drug addiction had played a leading role in his susceptibility to commit crime.


Mr Gearty said Mr French had previously been living with his aunt after suffering bereavements to both of his parents.


Shortly after running away from his aunt, Mr Gearty said his client succumbed to drug addiction which ultimately ignited a tendency to commit crime.


As the focus switched to his co-accused, Judge Hughes opened his cross-examination of the Ballyfermot man by jokingly asking if his surname indicated a family connection to incumbent Transport Minister Shane Ross.
“Not that I know of,” said Mr Ross in reply.


His solicitor John Quinn added that Mr Ross was currently serving out a two month sentence handed down at Blanchardstown District Court.


The Longford solicitor continued by telling of his client’s challenging personal circumstances which meant he was now the sole carer for his only sister.


Mr Quinn also highlighted some of the tragedies Mr Ross has endured in recent times, including the alleged murder of his father.


Mr Ross, himself, added that his father was gunned down at his home in Dublin but that no one has been brought to justice for the incident.


Mr Quinn said his client was a carer for his sister who is still recovering from breast cancer and was trying to battle a drug addiction.


On the night in question Mr Quinn said Mr Ross had agreed to accompany Mr French and two other co-accused with a view to procuring drugs.


“He thought he was going to get drugs on this expedition,” said Mr Quinn.
“He was invited to go with the others and thought there would be an opportunity (to obtain drugs).


“He was out to get a fix.”


Judge Hughes was quick to downplay those assertions, instead describing how Mr Ross and his co-accused had been caught red handed.


“He (Mr Ross) was about to commit a crime to get money so as to buy drugs.


“That’s what he did,” commented an angry Judge Hughes.


The District Court judge said while he had acknowledged both men’s trying personal circumstances which had brought about their penchant for crime, the fact little attempts had been made to deal with their drugs addictions was particularly telling.


“You both have had tough backgrounds,” he said.


“But when you look at Dublin it is swamped on every street corner with voluntary and community groups and you have never availed of that.”


Judge Hughes, nonetheless, advised the pair to seek help and noted how their drug addiction leanings had not appeared to irrevocably impacted on them.


The Judge’s mood, however, changed when a further appeal was made by Mr Quinn after it emerged both men were facing eight month prison terms.
“This was wanton criminality of the highest level,” he said.


“It’s the scourge of rural Ireland, leaving people frightened out of their skin and it’s just not acceptable.


“You do the crime, you do the time.”


In delivering his final summation, Judge Hughes showered praise on the Gardaí for the way the case was managed and brought to a speedy conclusion.


He consequently issued an eight month sentence to both men, terms which he ordered to run consecutively to the pair’s existing prison sentences.


Judge Hughes also told legal representatives for two other men currently before the courts on the same charge of how pleading guilty effectively reduced the duo’s sentences by 25 per cent.