“I must send a serious message to anyone thinking of engaging in this activity,” said Judge Kevin P Kilrane prior to sentencing Patrick Stokes, 8 Castle Meadows, Trim, Co Meath to 11 months in prison, with the final four months suspended in relation to the theft of cable wires from Eir, Cortober on August 8, 2017.
A co-accused, Johnny Stokes, 6 Castlemeadows Ring Road, Trim, Co Meath was remanded on continuing bail until December 18.
Giving summary evidence Insp Dennis Harrington told last week’s sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon District Court shortly after 1am on the date in question Gda Murray and Gda Burke were on mobile patrol turning in the direction of Lidl when they observed a vehicle parked on waste ground.
The rear doors of the Ford Transit were open and a male came from behind the van who was said to have been “sweating profusely” and was “startled” to see the Gardaí.
The back of the van was said to have been packed to capacity with heavy duty cable while three handsaws were placed near the door.
Two plastic bags were discovered in the footwell containing footwear and a change of clothes while a beaten track of grass to a perimeter fence was discovered with a ladder placed at the perimeter fence.
Insp Harrington said the value of the stolen property was €3,400 and he said it was “An ongoing problem in the area.”
Entering a plea on behalf of the accused, defending solicitor Gerry McGovern said, “This thing with scrap metal has become a big thing with people of the travelling community in recent years. It has become very valuable.
“These men have to realise it is not scrap it is valuable.”
Mr McGovern said the defendants received “Hardly one tenth of the value,” adding, “There should be a clampdown on the agents purchasing from them.”
Asking for leniency Mr McGovern added, “They put up their hands. You could say they were caught red handed.
“I ask you to deal with them other than throwing away the key and locking them up.”
In relation to John Stokes, who is a 23-year-old, father of one, and whose only previous convictions are for motoring offences, Judge Kilrane said, “It appears he wasn’t the owner or the driver of the vehicle.”
Judge Kilrane adjourned matters against John Stokes until December 18 saying he did not need a probation report to be prepared.
In relation to Patrick Stokes, who has 12 previous convictions, Judge Kilrane said he is “A hardened criminal.”
Judge Kilrane continued, “There may be some hope of rehabilitation for Johnny Stokes. If there is anything against him or a credible allegation (before the case is revisited in December) he may face prison.
“Patrick Stokes organised matters, I’m quite certain. Mr McGovern has attempted to paint the best light. He referred to members of the travelling community dealing with scrap metal. This is a serious larceny of Eir copper wiring. We must start with the stealers.”
Judge Kilrane paid tribute to the work of Gda Murray and Gda Burke saying, “I congratulate the Gardaí on detecting these two rascals.”
Prior to giving his ruling in relation to Patrick Stokes, Judge Kilrane said, “I must send a serious message to anyone thinking of engaging in this activity,” noting that “very serious damage could be caused to active cables.
“The question of rehabilitation must always be considered, the chances of rehabilitation are slim.”
Judge Kilrane imposed an 11 month prison sentence with the final four months suspended on condition Patrick Stokes is not convicted of any indictable offence for a period of three years post-release.
A request from Insp Harrington for a ban from driving to be imposed as Patrick Stokes drove from Meath for the purpose of committing the offence was rejected by Judge Kilrane.
Recognisance was fixed at €100 own bond, not cash and €6,000 independent surety, €2,000 of which must be cash with surety to be approved. Charges of possession of an article with the intention that it be used in the course of or in connection with a theft/burglary were struck out against both defendants.