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07 Aug 2022

'The accused needs to start to believe in himself': Man jailed for robbery of Longford primary school

'The accused needs to start to believe in himself': Man jailed for robbery of Longford primary school

A man who held up five members of the board of management during an armed robbery at a Longford primary school in August has been sentenced to four years and six months in prison, with the final 18 months suspended for a period of ten years.

James Cranny, 14 Meadowcrest, Boyle, Co Roscommon, appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson for sentencing last week, following a hearing, which took place the week before.

The court heard previously that, on August 27, 2020, the accused had been travelling from Dublin to Boyle, but mistakenly got off the train in Longford.

He had consumed “a cocktail of drugs” was “desperate for more drugs” and at approximately 7pm that evening, he entered the Longford primary school with a view to stealing money.

He armed himself with a screwdriver and two pairs of scissors and threatened the five attendees of the meeing with violence if they did not give him money.

After making off with a sum of money, leaving the victims unharmed, Mr Cranny was arrested and conveyed to Longford Garda Station where he was too intoxicated to give a statement until the following morning.

It was stressed to the court that Mr Cranny pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and said he wanted to waive his right to the book of evidence because “those people didn’t deserve that”.

Judge Johnson noted that the threatening of board members with the screwdriver was “a very traumatising and unsettling experience” for each of them.

“On the date in question, the board of management were acting in a voluntary capacity with their prime aim being to get St Joseph’s reopened in the midst of the Covid pandemic,” he said.

“Their agenda was a full one, which involved ensuring that all safety protocols were in place and that new staff members were appointed.

“I think it is often forgotten by the public at large the vital role that boards of management play in the delivery of education to our children.

“It isn’t fully appreciated that each board member acts in a voluntary capacity and that service on the board involves a great deal of personal sacrifice and commitment.

“Society owes a huge debt to volunteer board members like those on the board of management at St Joseph’s, who give of their time freely and selflessly for the benefit of the staff and students of the school,” Judge Johnson continued.

“Accordingly, the fact that the board members were subjected to robbery and such a frightening experience while carrying out their voluntary duties adds to the gravity of the offending and the sense of abhorrence that it rightfully attracts.”

Aggravating factors included the seriousness of the offence, the threats of violence and the fact that the accused has a long list of previous convictions, including 17 for robbery, 70 for burglary, one for attempted robbery, nine for theft, five for larceny and seven for criminal damage.

“He has been assessed by the probation officer as being at high risk of reoffending within the next 12 months. The factors that he needs to address are his misuse of drugs, his poor educational and employment history, family issues and his emotional health and development,” said Judge Johnson.

There were, however, a list of mitigating factors including the early plea of guilt and the fact that Mr Cranny had written individual letters of apology to the board members. He was also highly intoxicated when he committed the offence.

“While intoxication is never an excuse for offending, nevertheless it is indicative of somebody with serious addiction issues and an inability to comprehend the gravity of their offending,” said the judge.

Mr Cranny also didn’t inflict any physical injuries, which was a mitigating factor.

The judge also noted that the accused has had “a traumatic life” and became addicted to drugs from the age of 12 before spending much of his life going in and out of prison.

After meeting his partner, he got clean and spenta period of his life in a stable condition before a tragedy caused him to go back on drugs.

The accused also furnishd to the court an extensive letter in which he set out his regret for wat happened and described himself as being “self-centred when he made the decision to start taking drugs again”.

Judge Johnson noted that Mr Cranny had a high understanding of the seriousness of his wrongdoing and said that this acknowledgement “has to be a hopeful sign for the future”.

“I think there is little doubt that if the accused can achieve sobriety then he is unlikely to reoffend,” he said.

“The court was impressed by the accused’s insight into his offending. He is clearly a person of considerable talent and ability who, if channelled in the right direction, can become a contributing member of society.

“It’s to be hoped that while in prison, the accused will reflect on this and recalibrate his life so that he can take his place in society and contribute to society.

“The accused needs to start to believe in himself.”

The offences with which Mr Cranny was charged carry a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment. Due to the fact that no injuries were sustained by the victims, Judge Johnson ranked the case at the lower end to mid range of the scale, which he said attracts a headline sentence of seven years in prison.

Taking into acount the mitigating factors and the fact that incarceration will have to be served during the Covid emergency when even further restrictions are placed on prisoners, he reduced that sentence to four years and six months, with the final 18 months suspended for a period of ten years.

The suspension was subject to a number of conditions including that the accused enter into a bond of €500 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of ten years post-release.

He must submit himself to supervision by the probation service for a period of 18 months post-release and follow all directions given to him in dealing with his offending behaviour and addictions.

He must complete to the satisfaction of the probation service a residential drug treatment course within 18 months of his release and he must refrain from the consumption of alcohol and illicit substances for the period of the suspended sentence.

Judge Johnson concluded by backdating the sentence to the date that Mr Cranny went into custody, which was January 4, 2021.

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