Dean Barrett with addresses in Tubbercurry and Coolaney was living in Sligo at the time of the offence which occurred on August 26th/27th 2021.
Barrett, whom the court heard had spent half his life in prison, pleaded guilty to the one count of burglary at the home of the then 85 year old woman at Cleveragh Road, Sligo.
Sergeant Carmel McGrath, led by Mr Leo Mulrooney BL (prosecuting) instructed by State Solicitor Ms Elisa McHugh outlined how the householder was asleep in an upstairs bedroom when Barrett entered her home.
She had gone to bed at 10pm and when she got up the next morning she noticed that a collection of old coins she had were strewn on the floor.
An address book and a jotter were missing along with a number of the old coins. Cash in the amount of €2,500 had also been stolen along with a chequebook.
Subsequently a number of items were seized from a house in the vicinity where Barrett had been stayng at the time. These were identified by the victim.
The defendant had been arrested for an unconnected offence. A search warrant was obtained for the house he was living in with his partner.
Under a mattress on a bed a number of cheque subs were found which had come from the victim’s chequebook.
A disposable glove was located at Cleveragh Road which was examined and found to be a DNA match with the defendant.
When questioned Barrett denied all knowledge of the burglary.
In a Victim Impact Statement the elderly woman said she was thankful she was asleep at the time.
“God knows what would have happened if I had met him,” she said.
She said it had taken her a long time to save the €2,500 which was going to use to pay bills such as the gardener and milkman. Her husband had died in January.
She missed the address book as she used it to contact her friends.
She was very upset and worried in the aftermath of the burglary and spent seven days in hospital. She was in fear of it happening again.
Sgt McGrath confirmed that Barrett was on bail for other offences at the time he committed the burglary.
Last September he was jailed for 24 months for theft, burglary, insurance, cultivation of cannabis and unauthorised taking offences.
Sgt McGrath said his other previous convictions included 35 road traffic offences, 34 burglary, 19 Public Order, 13 for driminal damage, 16 theft, six drugs offences and one assault.
In reply to Mr Eoin McGovern BL (instructed by McGovern Walsh Solicitors), Sgt McGrath agreed that it would be fair to say the defendant was heavily intoxicated at the time of the burglary.
Witness agreed that most of the items taken were recovered. A sum of €3,000 had been seized from Barrett but this may be the subject of a Police Property Application said the sergeant.
Barrett told the court that he had been doing well in 2019 and was working. His lost his job when the Covid pandemic struck and he went back taking drugs. At one point he was living in a shed.
“I was doing things out there that I didn’t know myself I did I was that high on drugs,” he said.
He said he could not believe he had been charged with the offnce before the court, that he would put an elderly woman in fear in her own home.
“I didn’t even know I was in that house that night. I woke up with money that I didn’t know where I got it from,” he said.
He said he had spent about 15 to 16 years of life in prison.
“I’ve been in and of jail since I was 15,” he said.
Mr McGovern asked that the defendant be given credit for an early guilty plea in the matter.
Judge Keen Johnson said the victim’s confidence had been shattered and she was now worried about being on her own and all of this must be laid at the door of the defendant.
“It’s quite clear this has been a traumatic experience for her and she is out of pocket by €2,500,” he said.
Referring to the €3,000 seized, the Judge said he was satisfied that €2,500 of this should be returned to the victim.
Mr McGovern said the defendnat had indicated that the full €3,000 could be given to the victim and the Judge so directed.
Judge Johnson said the victim’s home should be a place where she felt the safest especially in her twillight years.
He noted the defendant was deemed at high risk of re-offending according to a probation report and it didn’t seem the defendant was fully motivated to rehabilitate himself.
The defendant was released from prison in 2019, lost his job when Covid struck and then went on a binge.
The Judge said he was “clearly a complete scourge on the community in Sligo during this time.”
The Judge set the headline sentence as six years but said he was suspending 18 months of this term for a period of four years.
This was on condition that he enter a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for four years post release and that he undergo supervision by the probation service for 18 months post release.
He must also abstain from alcohol and drugs and make himself available for drug and alcohol tesing by the Gardaí and probation service.
He must also underake a residental treatment programme.
Judge Johnson expressed his sympathy to the victim and wished her well in the future.
Barrett’s four and a half year jail term began from last Friday’s sentencing hearing.