Armed man caught trying to rob Dublin pub in garda surveillance sting

The incident took place outside the Seabank House, East Wall, Dublin (Image via Google Maps)
The incident took place outside the Seabank House, East Wall, Dublin (Image via Google Maps)

A man who was caught trying to rob a pub following a garda surveillance operation has been jailed for 18 months.

James Preston (36) was observed approaching the manager of the Seabank House pub in East Wall, Dublin armed with a wheel brace and Stanley knife. The manager was carrying the pub's takings from a bank holiday weekend.

Detectives from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau had set up the surveillance operation after receiving information about a planned robbery at the pub.

Before the incident, detectives noticed two cars driving around the East Wall area and engaging in "what appeared to be counter surveillance measures."

When Preston approached the publican, armed officers moved in and ordered him to drop his weapons. He was arrested but refused to answer questions when interviewed.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court also heard of an incident the following year when Preston drove dangerously around Finglas in a stolen BMW. He was chased by several gardai, and at one stage drove directly at a garda and missed hitting him by seconds.

Judge John Aylmer imposed a three-year sentence for the offences, suspending the final 18 months after noting Preston's "extraordinary efforts" to reform himself while in prison.

Preston, of Edenmore Gardens, Raheny, Dublin pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in East Wall on October 28, 2014. He also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and unlawful use of a car in Finglas on May 9, 2015.

Detective Garda Conor O'Sullivan, who arrested Preston after the attempted robbery, said he has 88 previous convictions which were mostly for road traffic offences but also included burglaries, robberies and car thefts.

The victim said he now took different routes to work because he was afraid of being followed. He has also changed cars and moved to the country as a result of the incident.

"I know if the gardai were not there things would not have ended too well for me," the victim said. "I would have been assaulted or far worse."

Defence counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor BL said her client committed the attempted robbery "out of desperation" to fund his drug addiction. She said he was under the influence of drugs when he committed the dangerous driving offence.

Judge Aylmer said this would have been a completed robbery but for the "excellent investigative work" done by gardai.

He noted that Preston claimed that the robbery was not his idea and that he was 'persuaded' into it by others who exploited his drug addiction at the time.

The judge also said that Preston's driving in May 2015 had put adults and children in severe danger. He said that despite the seriousness of his offending, the maximum penalty for dangerous driving was one year.

Conor Gallagher