Man faked own abduction to rob thousands from uncle's supermarket

Gordon O'Rourke
Gordon O'Rourke

A man who faked his own abduction in order to rob his uncle's supermarket has been spared a custodial sentence despite an appeal by prosecutors that a community service order was "unduly lenient".

Gordon O'Rourke (34), with an address at Na Creagain, Inverin, Connemara, had pleaded guilty to the theft of almost €45,000 from his uncle's supermarket store, Siopa an Phobail, at Inverin on dates between July 30 and 31, 2012. He had also pleaded guilty to making a false statement to gardai.

He was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered at Galway Circuit Criminal Court to undertake 240 hours community service by Judge Rory McCabe on March 11, 2015.

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully sought a review of O'Rourke's sentence today on grounds that it was "unduly lenient".

However, the Court of Appeal reimposed the same sentence with the additional condition that O'Rourke pay €10,000 by way of compensation to the injured party.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice John Edwards said the gardai received a 999 call made from the supermarket permises in the early hours of July 31, 2012.

O'Rourke, who was the caller, told gardai that he had freed himself from bonds after being kidnapped earlier at gunpoint.

He told gardai that he had been abducted shortly after leaving a local pub, An Poitín Stil, and had been forced to drive his own car to his uncle's premises.

The incident was captured on CCTV outside the pub as well as inside the premises. O'Rourke was observed being taken by a man wearing a balaclava to the safe to which he held the keys.

O'Rourke claimed he was tied up and imprisoned in the bathroom and that he succeeded in freeing himself after the assailant had left.

The supermarket was owned by O'Rourke's maternal uncle. However, in January 2012, it was placed in receivership and its future was uncertain.

In the course of a lengthy garda investigation, O'Rourke persisted in maintaining that he was the innocent victim of an abduction. However, close examination of CCTV "revealed some discrepencies".

O'Rourke became a suspect, he was detained and interviewed several times during which he admitted that the abduction was faked and that he had been party to the plan.

Mr Justice Edwards said O'Rourke told gardai that he was upset at having learned that the business was being put into receivership and he felt the crime would be victimless.

He adamantly refused to disclose the identity of the co-offender claiming that he was in fear of his life and that of his own family. From information recieved by the gardai, the judge said, it appeared he had at least two accomplices and that they were from Dublin.

None of the stolen money was ever recovered, Mr Justice Edwards said. O'Rourke claimed he had received €7,000 for his role in the offence and had spent it on personal things. He pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Justice Edwards said that as a result of the incident, O'Rourke had strained relations with his uncle and other members of his family.

In recent times he had been working part time in a tyre business, the owner of which intends to offer him a full-time job in the future.

Mr Justice Edwards said O'Rourke was married with two young children. While evidence was lead in the Circuit Court that he was previously convicted of larceny – for which he received a suspended sentence – that evidence should not have been lead and he was entitled to be treated as a first time offender.

Mr Justice Edwards said Judge McCabe's reasoning was "cogent" and "clearly articulated" and that he approached the case "conscientiously and with great care".

However, the aggravating factors were such that any sentence needed to include an element of general deterrance - "though not necessarily a custodial element".

O'Rourke's sentence was "unduly lenient" because it did not send out a sufficient message to others contemplating an offence of this type, the judge said.

Mr Justice Edwards said the required deterrance could be addressed in this case by reimposing the same penalties but with an additional condition to pay €10,000 to the "injured party" withing three years.

The court heard that the injured party could either be O'Rourke's uncle or a company so the €10,000 was required to be transferred to the State Solicitor for Galway.

O'Rourke was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for three years. When asked if he undertook to be so bound, O'Rourke said: "I do".

Wearing a dark suit and tie and carrying a bag of personal belongings, O'Rourke walked out of court having been spared a custodial sentence.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the combined effect of the sentences "achieves all objectives".

In submission to the Court of Appeal, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick Reynolds BL, said the theft involved a "great degree of pre-meditation".

The car was parked away from the entrance to the pub so that CCTV would capture it. The car then deliberately drove in the opposite direction of the shop, Mr Reynolds said.

O'Rourke went through the "same charade" for the CCTV in the shop and did nothing for 12 months but "sit back and play the victim".

Only through good, diligent police work was O'Rourke apprehended and at that point he made admissions, Mr Reynolds said.

He submitted that the Circuit Court judge lost sight of the balance between the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender, as he was required to do.

Counsel for O'Rourke, Paul Greene SC, said there was a particular opprobrium now visited on O'Rourke in his local community where "everybody knows everybody else".

Every time he walks into a local pub "he's going to be the man that ripped his uncle off for all of that money," Mr Greene said. That was a factor the judge coud consider, he submitted.

The court heard that he was "the inside man" and that he told the probation service that he was "utterly ashamed of his actions".

The court also heard that the community service had not yet been engaged in because of the DPP's outstanding appeal.

Ruaidhrí Giblin