‘There’s not a word about the people getting brutalised and living in fear’

A MAN who joined with his neighbours in foiling a burglary and helping to apprehend raiders stood up in court and said that he and others wanted to hear less of defendants’ problems and more about the rights of people living in fear from criminals in rural areas.

The man – who named himself as Mr Coffey – was speaking during the hearing of a trespass and burglary charge against Hugh Cash (39), of High Rath, Clara, Co Kilkenny. The offence was said to have occurred at Rathrone, Enfield on 10th October 2018. The couple who owned the house broken into along with a number of neighbours were in court for the case.

Sergeant McMorrow told the court that an attempted burglary had taken place at the home of Mr and Mrs Coleman at Rathrone. Attempts had been made to prise open a back door with a screwdriver. In the process of the crime they were disturbed by a neighbour, Derek Clarke, who ran down the road and shouted at them. They fled on foot and were seen by Mr Coffey at a nearby garage. A car had pulled up containing two people and one of the raiders got into it. Mr Coffey managed to take a photograph and one man was identified while another was partially identified.

Superintendent Martina Noonan said that the defendant had 66 previous convictions, the majority of them for road traffic and theft ofences, but two for burglary in 2015. Damage of €2,000 had been caused to the house in the attempted burglary.

Defending barrister James O’Brien said that his client had been in custody since 5th February last. He was married with children and his wife was “quite ill” at the moment.

Judge Cormac Dunne said that in the case before the court, the first observation that should be made was that in the last 10 years the county had been “plagued” by this sort of crime. People travelled from outside the county and terrified the local communities, in some cases through violence of the highest order. There was a plague of robberies in rural areas, sometimes accompanied by violence and indeed murder. The decision to prosecute the case in the district court had been made by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The maximum penalty in that court was 12 months imprisonment. This sometimes happened when a person pleaded guilty and where “decent citizens” like the Enfield residents in court were not obliged to give evidence.

At this stage Mr Coffey said he wanted to say something about the case and the judge called him to the witness box. Mr Coffey said that the people in court had heard about the defendant’s acohol problems and about his wife but there was “not one words about the other people who are getting brutalised and living in fear. What you listen to is solicitors and barristers given a sad story”.

The judge said that sometimes members of the public say that there was far too much about the defendants and not enough about the victims.

He considered the offence to be “on the higher end of the scale.” He sentenced defendant to nine months in prison, backdated to 5th February last.

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