'ashamed' | 

Finglas thief who stole from newly arrived Ukrainian refugees jailed for five months

Christopher Johnson (45) broke into the couple’s car while it was parked at a Dublin hotel. He took a guitar, tablet and laptop worth €2,600
Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson

Andrew PhelanIndependent.ie

A thief has been jailed for five months for stealing from a car belonging to Ukrainian refugees who had just arrived in Ireland after fleeing their war-torn home country.

Christopher Johnson (45) broke into the couple’s Ukraine-registered car while it was parked at a Dublin hotel. He took a guitar, tablet and laptop worth €2,600.

The recovering drug addict apologised and said he was “ashamed” of the theft, which happened when he had been clean and out of trouble for years. He “lapsed” after drinking at a party.

Judge Treasa Kelly sentenced him after hearing the property was not recovered and there was no compensation for the victims.

Father-of-three Johnson, of The Botanic, Prospect Hill, Finglas, pleaded guilty to theft and criminal damage to the vehicle at the underground car park of the Travelodge Hotel, Shangan Road, Ballymun, on March 24.

A garda sergeant told Dublin District Court the owner had just arrived in the country when Johnson broke into his car, smashing the rear window and taking the tablet, a guitar and a laptop with a total value of €2,600.

He also admitted separately breaking into a second car, a Honda Civic, at the same location on the same night. In that case, he took a laptop and designer driving gloves with a combined value of €520. He was identified on CCTV and made full admissions when arrested.

The owners declined to make victim impact statements.

The court heard Johnson had 56 previous convictions for offences including theft, assault and criminal damage, dating from 1996 to 2017.

He had “beaten his addiction” by taking injections that prevented him from using opiates and stayed out of trouble for the past five years, his solicitor David Bassett said.

Johnson had been “doing so well” and was “very apologetic, very ashamed and very embarrassed” to have lapsed and to have had “one slip” after so long.

“I just want to apologise to the people it happened to,” Johnson told the court. He said he had been an addict all his life but was now clean and had a council home.

He had been at a party on the night and did not usually drink, but he “ended up drinking a bottle, which led to me making this mistake”.

“Everything seemed to be going great,” he added. “It was one mistake in five years.”

Judge Kelly said she would give Johnson credit for his guilty plea and noted the fact he had “turned a corner” in his life, but there was no offer of compensation.

“These people are out of pocket for a considerable amount,” she said.

Mr Bassett accepted there was no realistic prospect of compensation, but asked the judge to suspend the sentence.

The judge said she had to impose a custodial sentence, and set recognisances in the event of an appeal.

The Ukrainian refugees, who spoke about the theft at the time, had fled their Kyiv home in the early days of Russia’s invasion.

They drove through a number of countries before arriving in Ireland two weeks before the theft.

The couple said in March they were surprised to have been the victims of theft as there were Ukrainian plates on the car and “the whole world knows about Ukraine”.

“It was obvious we are refugees and this is all we have,” one of them said.

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