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Gardai catch Tallaght man loading 'priceless' historic gates into back of van

The theft occurred on Firhouse Road, south Dublin (Image via Google Maps)
The theft occurred on Firhouse Road, south Dublin (Image via Google Maps)

A man who was caught by gardai loading "priceless" historic gates into the back of van has been jailed for 18 months.

Charles Farrell (44) will also serve a consecutive three-year sentence for dangerously driving a stolen car through the Tallaght area of Dublin in the early hours of the morning two months later while he was on bail.

Garda Peter Finnan, who was aware of a spate of burglaries in the area, had pursued the car driven by Farrell after becoming suspicious when he spotted Farrell wearing a hat and gloves in mild weather.

Farrell, of Bancroft Close, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft of two gates at Convent Cottage, Firhouse Road on April 4, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a car and dangerous driving in Tallaght on June 25, 2015. Farrell has six previous convictions.

Judge Melanie Greally suspended the final two years of the four-and-a-half year term on strict conditions. Farrell was also disqualified from driving for six years.

Two co-accused, James Spellman Junior (40) of Kilmartin Drive, Tallaght, and Trevor Matthews (41) of Glenshane Crescent, also in Tallaght, both received two-year suspended sentences in January for their roles in stealing the gates.

The judge accepted that Farrell had a "significant and long-standing drug addiction" but had previously been drug and crime free for 14 years. He relapsed in 2007 and the cycle of committing offences "recommenced".

Judge Greally accepted that Farrell was now making efforts to combat his addiction again and had a supportive family.

Gda Finnan told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting, at a sentence hearing last November that he and his colleague were on routine patrol on April 4, 2015 at 9.30pm on the Firhouse Road, when he saw three men carrying a large iron gate towards a van.

The officers approached and noticed that another identical gate had already been loaded into the vehicle.

The men, who were very agitated, refused to answer any questions. There was a pick axe nearby, and gardai found screwdrivers and a wire cutter in the van.

The premises was a listed building, including the gates, which dated back to 1710. The owner told gardai the historic gates were "priceless".

Gda Finnan said that on June 25, 2015 a woman left her car running in her driveway as she went back inside to get her handbag. The car was gone when she came back out, and when it was later returned to her it was so damaged it had to be written off and had been fitted with stolen registration plates.

He said that in the early hours of the morning he was on routine patrol when he spotted the car and became suspicious of the occupants. He signalled the car to stop but Farrell, the driver, accelerated aggressively along Old Bawn Road.

He said they followed the car as it ignored traffic signals, drove on the wrong side and in the middle of the road and exceeded the speed limit. He said the driver almost lost control on two occasions and finally tried to turn too quickly at Kiltipper Lane. The car rolled into the ditch landing on the driver's side.

Gardai had to break the glass to free Farrell and the passenger. They also found a wheel brace and four screwdrivers in the car.

Gda Finnan agreed with Dean Kelly BL, defending, that Farrell had a significant drug addiction in the recent past and this was the background to his offending. He agreed that Farrell had not accrued any convictions during the period from 1993 to 2007, and spent some of this time in the UK.

Mr Kelly said Farrell had been in custody since February and had a trusted role as a cleaner as well as completing education courses. He said a report from the prison indicated that he was polite and courteous in class, and had also encouraged other prisoners to attend for education. He said Farrell had also made contact with a drug counsellor.

Fiona Ferguson/Sonya McLean