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locked up Burglar who threatened school staff during terrifying armed raid is jailed

The court heard the accused had been in Dublin on the day of the offence where he consumed a "cocktail of drink and drugs" including almost 80 sleeping and valium tablets before getting off a train in Longford.

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Still of the terrifying raid

Still of the terrifying raid

Still of the terrifying raid

A serial burglar with over 140 previous convictions who held a screwdriver to the neck of a primary school principal during an armed raid in Co Longford last year has been sentenced to three years in prison.

James Cranny (38), of 14 Meadow Crest, Boyle, Co Roscommon was handed down the sentence at a sitting of Longford Circuit Criminal Court this morning following an incident at St Joseph's National School, Dublin Road, Longford on August 27, 2020.

Cranny pleaded guilty to two charges of robbery, three charges of attempted robbery and one charge relating to the possession of a weapon contrary to the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990.

The court heard the accused had been in Dublin on the day of the offence where he consumed a "cocktail of drink and drugs" including almost 80 sleeping and valium tablets before getting off a train in Longford shortly after 6pm.

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James Cranny was sentenced following the incident at St Joseph's National School, Dublin Road, Longford on August 27, 2020.

James Cranny was sentenced following the incident at St Joseph's National School, Dublin Road, Longford on August 27, 2020.

James Cranny was sentenced following the incident at St Joseph's National School, Dublin Road, Longford on August 27, 2020.

Less than an hour later, Mr Cranny, who has 70 previous convictions for burglary, interrupted a board of management meeting at the Longford town national school in a bid to steal money to try and procure more drugs.

The court heard the accused who first became addicted to drugs at just 12-years-old, stormed into the building, shouting: "This is not a joke, I want €800."

Armed with a screwdriver and pair of scissors, Mr Cranny approached principal Orla Egan and put a screwdriver to the right hand side of her neck.

After being told by Ms Egan she had no money, Mr Cranny turned his attentions to local solicitor and board of management chairperson Frank Gearty

In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Mr Gearty handed Mr Cranny €100 and guided him towards the exit door.

In total, the accused stole €135 from the Longford based solicitor and a further €100 from fellow board member Beatrice Shanley.

The court was also told the latter had the foresight to take photographs of Mr Cranny during the heist while another board member and local priest, Fr James McKiernan "very cleverly and surreptitiously" managed to contact gardai at the same time.

Mr Cranny, who the court heard, had endured a "wretched life" with his "second home" being Mountjoy Prison, wrote letters of apology to each of his five victims.

"It's not about what or who I rob, it's about getting my next fix," said Mr Cranny in response to his actions on the day.

"What I did to threaten people was no excuse and I deserve what I get."

In determining sentence, Judge Keenan Johnson said the court had an obligation to balance the needs of the accused against the needs of the victims and society at large.

He said the entire episode had clearly been a "very traumatising and unsettling experience" for each of the five board members present.

Judge Johnston praised the swift and brave actions of Mr Gearty, Ms Egan and the board's three other members, saying St Joseph's NS were fortunate to boast such a "caring and committed" principal at its helm.

Judge Johnson said the court was also required to take into account both aggravating and mitigating factors.

The former, he said, largely centred on how what he termed a " serious offence" involved the accused entering the school armed with a screwdriver and scissors.

The holding of a screwdriver to the neck of Ms Egan was "extremely aggravating" and instilled a sense of fear in both Ms Egan and those present, added Judge Johnson.

Mr Cranny's early plea of guilt, his decision to write letters of apologies to each of his victims and his difficult upbringing which resulted in both his parents to likewise becoming addicted to drugs were all mitigating factors the court had to consider, he said.

He sentenced Mr Cranny to four years and six months in prison, suspending the final 18 months for a period of ten years subject to a number of conditions.

They included that the accused enter into a bond, keep the peace and be of good behaviour for ten years post release while also engaging with the probation services for 18 months upon the expiry of his sentence.

Judge Johnson also ordered Mr Cranny to complete a residential drug treatment course with 18 months of release and refrain from both drugs and illicit substances for the entire period of the suspended sentence.

The commencement of the sentence was backdated to January 4, when Mr Cranny first went into custody.

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