Armed robbery accomplice of Love/Hate actor jailed

CourtsBy Sunday World
Stephen Clinch
Stephen Clinch

A reformed drug addict who took part in a €50,000 armed robbery at a Dublin hotel with a former Love/Hate actor as his accomplice has been jailed for four years.

Hugh McWeeney (43) had beaten his addiction by going “cold turkey” several years ago but was drawn back into offending due to debts built up during his drug use.

During the robbery his co-accused Stephen Clinch, who played “Noely” in the hit RTÉ series, held a semi-automatic pistol to the head of a security worker collecting overnight cash from a bar.

Clinch (49) of Millbrook Grove, Kilbarrack, Dublin received a four and a half year sentence last month for his role.

At Clinch's sentence hearing the court heard he told gardaí he had been clean of heroin for nine years and did it because he owed money as a result of the discovery by gardaí of a consignment of drugs he had being given to hide.

McWeeney, of Main Street, Belmayne, Malahide Road, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery of €50,730 and possession of a firearm with intent to commit robbery at The Gate Hotel, Parnell Street on May 11, 2015.

Judge Melanie Greally said that in McWeeney's 31 previous convictions, which date back to the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a link between his offending behaviour and drug abuse. She noted that the cycle of addiction had been broken but not the cycle of offending.

She said that the offence had clearly been a planned armed robbery of a substantial amount of cash being conveyed to a security company. She imposed a five year sentence but suspended the final year.

Garda Denise Bowes told Tom Neville BL, prosecuting, that a staff member, Diraj Boodho, and a security worker, Michel Cieslik, were in the process of delivering two bags of cash containing a total of €50,730 for lodgement when two men came from behind them and demanded the money.

Clinch and McWeeney were dressed like builders, wearing high-viz jackets and white dust masks. Clinch put the gun to the head of Mr Cieslik before grabbing the money and the raiders ran off down a set stairs.

A maintenance man, Barry Smith, saw the pair downstairs running away and following “significant tussles” the two robbers were restrained by a group of civilians until gardaí arrived.

All the money was recovered at the scene. The semi automatic pistol held by Clinch during the robbery was found to contain ammunition which was not suitable for use in that weapon. McWeeney was not armed.

Colm O'Briain SC, defending, said McWeeney began abusing solvents at a young age and progressed onto injecting heroin and using cocaine and crack cocaine. He stopped all drugs at the age of 39 and went “cold turkey.”

Mr O'Briain said McWeeney had not only rehabilitated himself in terms of drug use but had also been of assistance to others in similar situations. He handed a number of reports and references into court.

He said McWeeney had been drawn back into activity which lead to this offence as a result of debt built up during his time using drugs.