Barrister tells judge of concern for client's fitness for sentencing due to hangover and valium

Accused had been drinking heavily on Tuesday and had taken two Valium Wednesday morning
Accused had been drinking heavily on Tuesday and had taken two Valium Wednesday morning

Two men who were caught by gardaí loading “priceless” 300 year old gates into a van have each received a two year suspended sentence.

James Spellman Junior (40) of Kilmartin Drive, Tallaght, Dublin and Trevor Matthews (41) of Glenshane Crescent, also in Tallaght pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal to theft at Convent Cottage, Firhouse Road on April 4, 2015. Both men had minor convictions from the District Court.

Sarah-Jane O'Callaghan BL, defending Spellman had earlier told the court that she was concerned her client was not in a fit state to have his sentence dealt with as he had been drinking heavily on Tuesday and had taken two Valium Wednesday morning.

She said Spellman was insistent that his sentence be heard yesterday.

After speaking with the man and confirming he wanted his case dealt with, Judge Melanie Greally let it go ahead.

As the judge was passing sentence Matthews nudged Spellman to keep him alert in the dock.

Judge Greally said “somebody other than the two accused recognised the value of the gates” and the men “facilitated the theft of them rather than having masterminded it”.

She accepted both men had limited previous convictions and had dealt with the gardaí in an appropriate way.

She sentenced them to two years in prison which she suspended in full on strict conditions including that they each engage with the Probation Service for a year.

Garda Peter Finnan told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting that he and his colleague were on routine patrol at 9.30pm on the Firhouse Road, when he saw three men loading an iron gate into the back of a van. The officers approached and noticed that another identical gate had already been loaded into the vehicle.

The men refused to answer any questions. They also refused to take responsibility for a pickaxe that was lying nearby.

Gda Finnan said the gates had been fixed to a derelict, historical, listed building known as Convent Cottage. The gates, which dated back to 1710 were also listed and considered invaluable because of their age.

Gda Finnan agreed with Gabby Deane BL, defending Matthews that he had not been the “brains behind the operation” and that the third man, who had been there that day, has since had a warrant issued for his arrest.

He accepted that no one was in the cottage at the time and it was effectively derelict as the owner was waiting to renovate it.

Gda Finnan agreed with Ms O'Callaghan that Spellman had both heroin and alcohol addictions and was also not the “ringleader” in the operation.

He accepted that he was easily led, had a low IQ and was quite vulnerable.

Ms Deane said Matthews was a father of three and his partner, and mother of his children had died nine years ago. He was also a carer for his mother who had many medical conditions.

She said her client, his siblings and his mother had all suffered various types of abuse at the hands of their father and he often had to step in as a child between his parents to prevent his mother being hurt.

Ms Deane said her client had been offered €30 to help transport the gates and he was very sorry for his role. Letters of apology were handed into court on Matthews' behalf.

Ms O'Callaghan said her client took Valium today because he had been so anxious about the case.

She told Judge Greally that he had been “linking in” with Father Peter McVerry with the intention of dealing with his addiction. A letter from his sister stated how proud she was of the efforts he has made.

“He is a nice man who has taken a lot of bad turns in his life,” Ms O'Callaghan said.