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sentence hearing Burglar who looted store during 'Storm Emma' while high on cocaine avoids extra prison time

The court yesterday indicated that, having read positive probation reports regarding David Berney, they would increase the suspended portion of his sentence rather than send him to prison.

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Stock image: Court Room

Stock image: Court Room

Stock image: Court Room

A CONVICTED burglar who looted a shop during Storm Emma in 2018 will not face extra prison time, despite the Court of Appeal finding his original sentence was unduly lenient.

The court yesterday indicated that, having read positive probation reports regarding David Berney, they would increase the suspended portion of his sentence rather than send him to prison.

Berney, of Suncroft Park, Tallaght, pleaded guilty in 2018 to burglary at a Centra store in Jobstown, Tallaght, on March 2 that year.

During a sentence hearing at the circuit court, lawyers said Berney was, like many people, reminded of his childhood by the heavy snowfall.

"But unlike others he was high on cocaine at the time," Eoin Lawlor, defending, told Judge Cormac Quinn.

Berney was on bail at the time awaiting prosecution for a burglary of a private home at Rocklodge, Stepaside, on December 3, 2014 and has since pleaded guilty to that offence.

Judge Quinn imposed a two-year sentence for the burglary.

He imposed a further 18 months for the looting incident, but suspended this term on condition he keep the peace and engage with addiction and social reintegration services.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the sentence for the looting was unduly lenient given that Berney was on bail for a similar offence at the time and had a previous burglary conviction.

She added, however, that his progress has been good, he has a favourable probation report and has begun a new job.

Therefore, she said the court would "mark the seriousness of the offence" by imposing a suspended sentence on certain conditions.

Berney, who could not attend court today because he is beginning an apprenticeship as a plumber, will be sentenced at a later date.

Detective Garda David Jennings told Eoghan Cole, prosecuting, that in March 2018 gardaí became aware of looting at the Centra store in Tallaght.

At the time, most shops had closed due to the severe weather warning.

The detective said there were around 20 people at the scene.

A "con saw" had been used to cut a hole in the security shutters and people were running in and out of the shop.

While others were looting, Berney and two other men had gone to the storeroom at the back of the shop.

Another man had a sledgehammer and smashed the storeroom door open, and the three then entered the cash room inside, Det Gda Jennings said.

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