A "passionate environmentalist" who caused damage totalling €3m in an arson attack on the Irish headquarters of the Jesuit Order has been given a five-year sentence.
Noah Bunn (aged 26), a former clerical employee of the Jesuits and member of environmental group ‘Friends of the Earth’, set the fire on Good Friday last year because he believed the order wasn’t using its "moral authority" to alert the world to the dangers of climate change.
Bunn, with an address at Hardwicke Street, Dublin 1, who has a law degree from the University of Wales and is originally from Northampton, England, pleaded guilty to arson at Eglington Road, Donnybrook, on April 6, 2007.
Judge Katherine Delahunt said the offence carried a penalty of up to life imprisonment and this case rated high on the scale. She noted that Bunn had excellent support from his family and that before setting the fire he had made sure the sole resident of the building had left.
She said she was concerned by psychiatric report which indicated Bunn was "a very troubled young man" and noted he was at risk of re-offending because "he is delusional and may have significant problems".
Judge Delahunt imposed a sentence of five years imprisonment and ordered the reports be available to visiting psychiatrists at whichever institution he is held.
Garda Brian Flannery told prosecuting counsel, Mr Sean Gillane BL, that after extinguishing the blaze at the building, Dublin Fire Brigade alerted gardai to suspicions that the fire had been started deliberately.
Gardai carried out a technical examination of the scene and spoke to the sole resident, a Korean priest, who told them he had observed Bunn deliberately set the fire.
Gda Flannery said Bunn was also observed on CCTV purchasing petrol and a lighter near the house prior to the incident. He had caused damage totalling €3,042,000.
Bunn didn’t return afterwards to the city centre hostel where he was staying but handed himself in several days later to Mill Street Garda Station in Galway and admitted setting the fire.
Gda Flannery said Bunn told garda the idea came to him when he was drunk. He said he purchased a knife, cigarette lighter and two containers of petrol on his way to the house where he let himself in with his key for it and poured petrol over furniture in several rooms.
He called out to see if there was anybody in the house and told the Korean priest that he planned to burn it down. He said he shouted at the priest to get out and pointed to his knife which was stuck under his belt to let him know he would not be stopped.
Gda Flannery said that Bunn revealed that when he ignited the lighter the flames "went like a firebomb up the walls." He left the building and sat on the steps outside the building with the priest. He did not tell him why he set the fire but gave him the telephone number for the emergency services.
Bunn then left the scene and continued drinking in a park until he fell asleep under a bush. When he woke up he took money from his account and left Dublin.
Gda Flannery said Bunn, who had no previous convictions. He had moved to Ireland from England and was working through a recruitment agency filling clerical roles around Dublin
Gda Flannery agreed with defence counsel, Mr Martin Giblin SC (with Mr Niall Nolan BL), that Bunn had fully co-operated with gardai after handing himself in and had never applied for bail
Mr Giblin said Bunn was a "passionate environmentalist who was overly concerned at the time with climate change". His only explanation was that he had been drinking and formed the idea that the Jesuits were not using their moral authority to alert the world sufficiently to the dangers of climate change.
He said this was no longer Bunn’s view and he had given an undertaking he would never commit an offence again no matter how strongly he felt about an issue.
Mr Giblin said Bunn had suffered from depression and substance abuse problems. He held a law degree from the University of Wales and came from a law abiding family who were deeply upset at the events. Counsel handed in testimonials from many employers who spoke highly of him.