‘You have to stand up, show your face and be counted against these people’

Paul Murphy

A man who stood up in a local court and called for less consideration to be given to criminals' "sad stories" and more attention for their victims said that he would do the same tomorrow and he repeated his claim that people in rural areas were living in fear of burglars.

The highly unusual intervention in the court case was delivered at Trim District Court last Thursday by farmer Eoin Coffey from Enfield minutes before a 39-year-old man with a Kilkenny address was about to be sentenced for a burglary attempt at a house near Enfield in October 2018.

Hugh Cash had entered a guilty plea on the day of the court hearing but Mr Coffey and a number of his neighbours, some of whom foiled the burglary and led to the arrest of perpetrators, were in court ready to give evidence. The guilty plea meant that they were stood down as witnesses but they stayed in court to hear the outcome of the case.

They had already been in court last October when an accomplice of Cash was sentenced in connection with the Enfield incident.

"He got six months in prison but it was suspended and we could see this one in Trim going the same way", he said.

When he stood up in the body of the court and said he wanted to say something about the case, Judge Dunne invited him up to the witness box to hear what he had to say.

READ THE COURT CASE HERE

This week, he was totally unrepentant about his courtroom speech. "I'm not paranoid about all this but I just think you have to stand up and be counted in this country. You have to stand up, show your face and be counted against these people."

The 43-year-ols said that people in rural areas, especially those living near the Meath-Dublin border feared the incursion of criminals who came off the N4 motorway at Kilcock to carry out raids in this county, a point also made by Judge Dunne when addressing the case before him.

Mr Coffey said that while the couple who owned the burgled house were out at the time, the door of their house had been "kicked in" and e2,000 worth of damage had been caused.

"The man living in the house has a heart condition. What would have happened if he came along and surprised these people breaking into his home?"

Recalling the day of the incident, he said that he had received a phone call asking him to watch out for a blue Peugeot car cruising around the area. The next thing he heard was footsteps running down the road "I knew they weren't joggers. I said 'f*** me, I'm going to run after them.". One man was apprehended but another "skipped into a field". The Gardai were notified and locals helped them search nearby fields for the man who had got away. Mr Coffey said that as the incident was taking place, a car sped out from behind his brother's garage. The two men in the vehicle were there to pick up the two raiders.

"I whipped out the phone and was able to get a photograph of them, one of them fully identified and the other partially identified". He believes the photograph helped Gardai trace the offenders and led to the court appearances.

He said that at one stage some years ago 22 Gardai were based in Enfield, mainly because of the presence nearby of an explosives factory but "now there are just two".

“There is no neighbourhood watch scheme in the area because he says it simply serves to make older people more frightened. "Last October when we were in court for the case about one of these fellows, a case was put forward by a barrister that he had four brothers, one of them dying tragically. There wasn't a word said about these people's back door being kicked in. That was boiling my blood since last October."

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