No jail for teen mugger who once led breakouts from detention centre
The 17-year-old boy, who has 46 prior criminal convictions, was once the ringleader of escapes which led to massive searches, security reviews and a community put in fear after young offenders absconded from the Oberstown juvenile detention facility in Lusk in north Co. Dublin last year.
He pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court to stealing a mobile phone from a woman as the Luas tram approached the Blackditch Road stop on Feb. 24 last year.
The teenager, who remained silent during the hearing, is already serving a sentence in Oberstown and not due for release until November next year.
Judge John O'Connor noted that imposing another custodial sentence would mean the teenager would be transferred to an adult detention centre. He also noted the guilty plea and submissions from the defence about efforts the boy made to move away from a life of crime.
He imposed a 10-month sentence but suspended it for a period of two years commencing from November 2017, when he gets released.
The youth was warned that for two years after he gets out he cannot re-offend or else the sentence would be activated.
During an earlier hearing his solicitor Matthew Kenny had gave Judge O'Connor a typed letter from the boy which began: “Over the past few years of my life I have been in turmoil, I didn't know if I was coming or going.”
In the letter, the teenager described how he plans to change his life, that he learned he is going to become a father and that while in custody he will take part in a programme to address his offending.
He also stated that he had done the Junior Certificate in Oberstown and he now has “an incentive to improve my life”.
The letter which was read out by the judge ended with the plea: “I would ask you to give me a chance to prove I have the capability to change”.
Garda Graham Weekes told Judge O'Connor that during the theft at the Golden Bridge Luas stop in D12 the teen, who cannot be named because he is a minor, snatched a €280 phone from the hand of a woman who put up a struggle and fell to the ground.
The youth, then aged 15, made good his escape, leaving the woman in fear and shock.
Gda Weekes it was a very frightening experience for the woman. He said the boy was identified from CCTV footage and when questioned he made admissions and apologised. Gda Weekes agreed with the defence that the boy is a more mature person now.
The court heard a breakdown of the boy's criminal convictions: 16 for theft, one robbery, three burglaries, two escapes from custody, one knife possession charge, two criminal damage offences, one for making a threat to kill or cause serious harm another, an assault, one count of unlawfully interfering with motor vehicles, and the rest were public order offences for being intoxicated, breach of the peace and failing to comply with a garda's direction.
A social care worker from the Oberstown detention had said there has been a change in the teen's attitude to authority figures and he has shown more maturity. He said the boy is involved in several programmes in the facility.
Pleading for leniency, Mr Kenny asked the court to note that the boy was aged 15 at the time.
The youth was then out of school and involved anti-social behaviour, would not take directions from authority figures including gardai and he was involved in substance abuse, the solicitor told the court.
Judge O'Connor said the teenager has the highest number of convictions of defendants currently before the Children's Court but had congratulated him on completing the Junior Certificate. The teen's probation report was crucial in how he would deal with sentencing, the judge had warned.
His mother was present for the case and hugged her son at the end the hearing.