NewsCrime Desk

Traveller burglaries kingpin given bail despite protests from gardai


One of the nation's most prolific burglars has been released on bail, despite protests from gardai that he may flee the country, never to be seen again.

The man was arrested in Dublin last week after he led gardai on a high-speed chase through a western suburb.

The alarm was raised after the garda air-support unit spotted a car linked to a major countrywide crime spree during a routine flyover of a halting site.

A number of men got into the car, which is thought to be connected with up to 60 burglaries from Limerick to Dublin and areas of the south and south-east.

A high-speed chase ensued after ground units responded to the call from the air-support team.

The car sped through the quiet suburban streets before coming to a stop after colliding with a parked vehicle.

Four men managed to flee the scene, but the driver was arrested.

He later appeared in court under two different names but was released earlier this week despite objections to bail.

"This lad is a Traveller based in the UK and is believed to be the ringleader in a gang behind a spate of robberies, some of them violent, all over Ireland," said a source.

"It was a mistake to let him out. He could slip away now and we won't see him ever again. These lads are very good at disappearing.

"When he was arrested there was great difficulty ascertaining his identity. He provided a few names and addresses but eventually produced a passport.

"This is the issue we are facing with bail laws.

"This man is now free to roam the streets again and potentially commit more robberies."

Gardai believe the individual, who is in his 40s, is one of Ireland's most prolific robbers and has dedicated a lifetime to his 'trade'.

"This guy is at this all his life. Without question, he is responsible for causing countless cases of hardship and fear for people the length and breath of the country. It is a joke letting him go. But that's the system," said the source.

The news comes as a senior Department of Justice official formally apologised to the President of the District Court after he claimed that judges do not take burglary offences seriously.

Assistant Secretary General Jimmy Martin made his claims before the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, when he accused the judiciary of not taking a serious stance on the crime.

"Our perception is that the judiciary didn't view burglary as a serious offence," he said, during a discussion on offences committed by repeat offenders while out on bail.

"They would be arrested by the guards, charged, released on bail, then commit more burglaries, and be released again, and I think there was one incident where it happened six or seven times in one month," he told the committee.

Mr Martin's comments are thought to have caused some discontent among district court judges, prompting him to write to the President of the District Court, Judge Rosemary Horgan, offering his "apologies" over the controversy.

Speaking in Dublin last week at the launch of Operation Thor, a new €5m garda crackdown on crime, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald again promised that reform of bail laws was a "top priority".

Adam Cullem