Dublin man with 139 convictions punched and robbed visually-impaired man

The incident occurred at Busaras Luas Stop (Pic: Google Maps)
The incident occurred at Busaras Luas Stop (Pic: Google Maps)

A man who robbed a visually-impaired man of his groceries after punching him in the face and headbutting him has been sentenced to four years with the last 18 months suspended.

Robert McHugh (25) of St Joseph's Place, Dublin 7, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery of Martin O'Brien at the Luas Stop at Busaras on Store Street on March 30, 2015. His 139 previous convictions include burglary, drug, possession of articles and numerous thefts.

Garda Kieran O'Rourke told Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting that Mr O'Brien (63), who has no sight in one eye and partial sight in the other, was waiting at the stop with his partner, when McHugh sat down beside him.

He felt someone rummaging in his pockets so he got up to move away when McHugh shouted at him to sit down again. He got aggressive towards Mr O'Brien and started pushing him and grabbed at his groceries and the stick the victim was using as a visual aid.

Mr O'Brien tried to swing his cane at McHugh to get him away but the man started throwing punches, with one landing on his face, hitting his nose and mouth. He quickly followed this with a headbutt before grabbing the bag of groceries and running off.

Gda O'Rourke said a number of Luas security men were standing nearby and they advised passers-by to call gardai before they chased McHugh and held him until officers arrived.

McHugh was arrested and told gardai in interview that he was sorry for whatever happened but he had no recollection of it. He said he had just drunk a bottle of vodka. A knife was found in his tracksuit but it had not been used during the robbery.

McHugh told gardai that his own brother has a disability and he would hate if something like this had ever happened to him.

Gda O'Rourke said Mr O'Brien didn't make a victim impact statement. He was treated by a station doctor in Store Street Garda Station for cuts and bruising around his nose and mouth but he didn't need stitches and wasn't hospitalised. He was very shaken up after the robbery and felt nervous around town since.

Gda O'Rourke agreed with Anne Marie Lawlor BL, defending that McHugh first came before the courts when he was 16 years old.

He accepted that he had an alcohol problem and had often abused other substances. He was also diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Gda O'Rourke agreed with counsel that he knew McHugh quite well and he had no problem with him when he was sober.

Ms Lawlor told Judge Melanie Greally that her client was now looking to get residential treatment to deal with his alcohol addiction. She said he was currently in isolation on remand in prison as there were concerns for his safety.

Judge Greally said that Mr O'Brien's cane was in full view and it was evident that he was someone who had visual difficulties.

She noted that it was due to the prompt action of gardai that McHugh was arrested minutes after the robbery yet he had no recollection of it.

The judge accepted that McHugh was in dire need of help but she said she couldn't ignore the very violent and serious nature of the offence before she sentenced him to four years with the 18 months suspended on strict conditions.

Sonya McLean