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Love/Hate actor jailed for €50k armed robbery

CourtsBy Sunday World
Stephen Clinch, AKA Noely in Love/Hate
Stephen Clinch, AKA Noely in Love/Hate

A film actor who starred in the Love/Hate TV series has been jailed for four-and-a-half-years after he admitted carrying out a €50,000 armed robbery.

Stephen Clinch, who played 'Noely' in the hit RTÉ series, held a loaded semi-automatic pistol to the head of a security worker collecting overnight cash from a bar.

Clinch (49) of Millbrook Grove, Kilbarrack, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a firearm with intention to commit robbery and to robbery of €50,730 at The Gate Hotel, Parnell Street, Dublin on May 11, 2015.

The court heard that Clinch had a history of an underlying heroin addiction. His previous convictions include 17 robbery and 13 burglary offences.

These offences date up to 2004 and he has had no serious convictions recorded until this robbery. Clinch told gardai after his arrest in 2014: "I thought I had my life back on track."

Character referees, including singer Damien Dempsey, Love/Hate producer Stuart Carolan and film director Mark O'Connor, variously described Clinch as a friendly and reliable worker who had given back to his local community.

One victim of the holdup, Diraj Boodho, a cellar man responsible for lodging the takings of the hotel's associated bar, told the court the ordeal has left him afraid to leave the house.

"I could have been murdered," he stated.

At around eight that morning Mr Boodho was holding two bags of cash takings for lodgement.

He was in the hotel with security worker, Michel Cieslik, when two men came through a door and towards the staff and demanded the money. The men were dressed like builders, wearing high-viz jackets and white dust masks.

Clinch put the gun to the cheek of Mr Cieslik. Mr Boodho told gardai later: "When I saw the gun I thought it was going to finish."

The raiders grabbed the money bags and ran downstairs. As they ran away Clinch turned back and pointed the gun at Mr Boodho, who then ducked away.

A maintenance worker, Barry Smith, saw the raiders running and used a bike to try to block their escape. Clinch punched him on the chin but Mr Smith held on to him and got him up against a wall.

After a struggle Clinch ended up on the ground with two staff members lying on his stomach. Gardai arrived to find him like this with the money and handgun on the ground beside him.

Clinch told gardai he had been clean of heroin for nine years. He claimed he didn't know the gun was loaded and didn't want to commit the robbery.

He said he did it because he owed €8,000 as a result of the discovery of a consignment of drugs he had being given to hide. He said the debt "goes up each time".

Judge Martin Nolan said it was a "incredibly frightening" incident and that the victim felt he could have died on the night.

Garda Niall McCormack told Tom Neville BL, prosecuting, that the gun had been altered to discharge live ammunition and was in fair condition. The four 9mm rounds were found to be in good condition but were not suitable for use in the pistol.

Garda McCormack said there was an issue between metric and imperial measurements. "To an untrained person it may appear the ammunition was capable of being fired but that wasn't the case," he said.

Mark O'Connor, who said he was a writer and director of films such as Between the Canals and King of The Travellers, said he met Clinch during a 2007 audition.

Clinch went on to star in four feature films and Mr O'Connor said they became very close friends.

He said Clinch was brilliant to work with and that he'd never sought money for any of the films they made together.

In a written reference producer Stuart Carolan said Clinch was very serious about his work and was courteous and friendly.

Singer Damien Dempsey said he had known Clinch all his life and he was always a friendly face around Donaghmede. He said he had guided local people into music and acting and warned them about the horrors of addiction.

Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, said his client had previously been a chronic drug addict who robbed to feed his habit but that from 1998 he had had no serious convictions.

"He did well in that period. He was a great possibility to do much good," counsel said.

Declan Brennan