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five year sentence Man who attempted to bring shotgun into rehabilitation centre jailed for burglary and robbery

Darren McDonnell (38) had been resident at the centre for two days when he went missing from the grounds and burgled an elderly couple's home

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Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Niall Carson/PA)

A man who was caught attempting to bring a stolen shotgun into a rehabilitation centre has been jailed for three years for burglary and a robbery carried out five days later.

Darren McDonnell (38) had been resident at the centre for two days when he went missing from the grounds and burgled a home.

An employee noticed that he had a shotgun concealed in his trousers when he returned to the grounds of the centre.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that McDonnell was arrested a few days later in Dublin after carrying out a knife-point robbery in a shop.

McDonnell, of Macroom Avenue, Coolock, pleaded guilty to burglary at a home in Curraheenduff, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on November 4, 2020, and to robbery and possession of a knife at Spar, Tonlegee Road, Coolock, on November 9, 2020.

He has over 40 previous convictions, including convictions for robbery and unauthorised taking of a motor propelled vehicle.

Judge Elma Sheahan said the victims of the burglary were “an older couple in rural Ireland who would be nervous having a centre close to their home” and noted that they are since afraid of returning home for fear they may encounter an intruder.

“It has damaged their peace of mind and enjoyment of their home in their later years,” Judge Sheahan said before noting that the burglary has also damaged the reputation of the centre.

She said McDonnell had a “significant history” offending which is related to his drug addiction but noted his efforts to detox in the past and since his recent remand in prison.

Judge Sheahan sentenced McDonnell to five years in prison but suspended the final two years on strict conditions including that he remain under the supervision of the Probation Service for three years “to provide him with encouragement and the opportunity to rehabilitate”.

Garda Anne-Marie Coogan told Joe Barnes BL, prosecuting, that McDonnell went missing from the grounds of the recovery home two days after arriving and on his return, a pastor working there noticed he was concealing a shotgun in his trousers.

Gda Coogan said that when confronted, McDonnell admitted the burglary and handed over the shotgun as well as shotgun cartridges and a tablet he had also stolen. The pastor drove him to a train station and contacted gardaí after the accused had left.

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The victims, who live in a rural area, were not aware that their house had been burgled until they were contacted by gardaí.

Gda Coogan said the treatment centre is known locally as a “Bible school”. She said the residents were treated through prayer and that it is “not for everybody”.

Garda Eoin Duffy told Mr Barnes that several days later, McDonnell entered the Spar shop in Coolock, picked up a number of items and went to the till.

Gda Duffy said that once the till was opened, McDonnell produced a knife and demanded the contents. McDonnell stole €280, but was apprehended shortly thereafter when gardaí spotted him running away from the scene.

Gda Duffy agreed with John Moher BL, defending, that his client was declared unfit for interview following his arrest due to the drugs in his system. He agreed his client told gardaí he had started 2020 clean, but had relapsed during the second lockdown.

Mr Moher said his client has a long-standing heroin addiction. He said his client's aunt organised his stay in the rehabilitation centre, which he admitted “could hardly have been less successful”.

Counsel said his client does well in custody, but has found the challenge of keeping that up while in the community “too much”.

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