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Dad-to-be (17) makes passionate plea for leniency over mugging charge

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
He pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court on Thursday to stealing a mobile phone from a woman
He pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court on Thursday to stealing a mobile phone from a woman

A YOUTH, who once led two breakouts from the State's main juvenile detention centre, has made an impassioned plea for leniency after he admitted mugging a woman.

The 17-year-old boy, who has 44 prior criminal convictions, was the ringleader of escapes which led to massive searches, security reviews and a community put in fear after young offenders absconded from the Oberstown juvenile detention facility in Lusk in north Co. Dublin last year.

He pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court on Thursday to stealing a mobile phone from a woman at a Luas stop on Feb. 24 last year and begged for a chance to show he has changed his ways. The teenager, who remained silent during the hearing, is already serving a sentence and not due for release until November next year.

His solicitor gave Judge John O'Connor a typed letter from the boy which began: “Over the past few years of my life I have been in turmoil, I didn't know if I was coming or going.”

In the letter, the teenager described how he plans to change his life, that he learned he is going to become a father and that while in custody he will take part in a programme to address his offending. 

He also stated that he had done the Junior Certificate in Oberstown and he now has “an incentive to improve my life”. His mother sat at the back of the court holding certificates from her son's course work which he had done in the detention centre.

The letter which was read out by the judge ended with the plea: “I would ask you to give me a chance to prove I have the capability to change”. Sentencing was adjourned for four weeks for a probation report to be prepared.

Garda Graham Weekes told Judge O'Connor that during the theft at the Golden Bridge Luas stop in D12 the teen, who cannot be named because he is a minor, snatched a €280 phone from the hand of a woman who put up a struggle and fell to the ground.

The youth, then aged 15, made good his escape, leaving the woman in fear and shock.

The court then heard a breakdown of the boy's criminal convictions: 16 for theft, one robbery, three burglaries, two escapes from custody, one knife possession charge, two criminal damage offences, one for making a threat to kill or cause serious harm another, an assault, one count of unlawfully interfering with motor vehicles, and the rest were public order offences for being intoxicated, breach of the peace and failing to comply with a garda's direction.

Garda Weekes agreed with defence solicitor Matthew Kenny that he had noticed a change in the youth's demeanour and attitude and that the boy is now a more mature person.

A social care worker from the Oberstown detention said that over recent months he too has seen a change in the teen's attitude to authority figures and he has shown more maturity. He said the boy is also involved in several programmes in the facility and it was important for the youth to address his offending.

He agreed with Mr Kenny that if will be up to the teenager to remain motivated and if he did not keep motivated it would be clear to the staff in the detention centre.

Pleading for leniency, Mr Kenny asked the court to note that the boy was aged 15 at the time. The youth was then out of school, would not take directions from authority figures including gardai and he was involved in substance abuse, the solicitor told the court. The teenager had also apologised to the garda when he was questioned, the judge heard.

Judge O'Connor said the teenager has the highest number of convictions of defendants currently before the Children's Court. He congratulated him on completing the Junior Certificate but warned him that the findings of the probation report would be crucial in how he would deal with sentencing.