Burglar caught robbing schools and churches while on suspended sentence jailed

judge hammer.jpg
judge hammer.jpg

A man who burgled churches and primary schools while he was serving a suspended sentence for other burglaries has been jailed for a year.

James Byrne (43) of Balfe Road, Crumlin, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to burglary at Drimnagh Castle Primary School; St Agnes Church, Crumlin; Assumption Church, Walkinstown, and St Mark’s Junior School, Tallaght on dates from October 3 to 13 2014.

Byrne also pleaded guilty to criminal damage at St Mark’s Junior School.

Judge Catherine Murphy suspended the last year of a two year jail term on condition that he keeps the peace and engages with drug addiction services.

She wished Mr Byrne well and told him he was at a crossroads in his life.

Byrne has 26 previous convictions including five for burglary, three for aggravated burglary and others related to larceny and domestic violence. He was serving a suspended sentence for burglaries when he committed these offences.

Gda Orla Madden told Diarmuid Collins BL, prosecuting, that on October 5, 2014 Byrne knocked on the door of St Agnes Church and asked to see a priest. The woman who let him in had been counting coins in the sacristy and told Byrne to wait for the priest to return.

Minutes later she saw him jump up and run from the church. Another witness heard the sound of coins rattling in Byrne’s jacket as he ran. Byrne later told gardaí that he got €56 from the theft.

On October 13, 2014, at Assumption Church, Walkinstown, an 80-year-old man was counting coins in the church when he noticed a hand on the bench beside him. Initially he thought it was the parish priest and when he saw it was Byrne he tried to grab him but could not get a grip.

As the elderly man chased him, shouting for him to stop, Byrne turned and locked the door. Gda Madden said he got away with between €200 and €300.

Gda Madden told the court that Byrne identified himself on CCTV footage from Drimnagh Castle Primary School on October 3 2014 after a teacher reported their laptop as stolen.

Gda Kieran Kilcoyne said that Byrne broke into St Mark’s Junior School in Tallaght on October 12 2014 and caused €3,500 worth of damage to doors and windows in the school. Byrne told gardaí that he did not get anything during the burglary and had to go to his ex-wife’s house afterwards to borrow €10.

James Dwyer BL, defending, said his client was remorseful and was making efforts to tackle his drug addiction issues. He said the father-of-four has being categorised as an enhanced prisoner while in custody.

Mr Dwyer said that Byrne did not use violence in any of the burglaries and the only contact he had with someone was the “robust 80-year-old” who attempted to grab him. Byrne apologised for locking the man in the church.