A father of one who robbed the shop across the road from his own home in "one of the silliest" crimes to watch on CCTV footage has been sentenced to four years in prison at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Desmond O’Neill (aged 29) of Whitestown Green, Blanchardstown, was armed with a lump hammer when he rolled across the shop counter and demanded money from the shopkeeper, a woman he had known all his life.
Garda Eoin Clerkin accepted in cross-examination from Ms Martina Baxter BL, defending, that the robbery "was not the cleverest" and had been "one of the silliest to watch on CCTV".
Judge Frank O’Donnell suspended the last year of the sentence after he commented: "To say this was a stupid robbery is putting it mildly and is an understatement."
He noted that O’Neill’s 26 previous convictions had mostly been committed while he was on bail for other offences and described his lifestyle as "chaotic".
O’Neill pleaded guilty to the robbery of Whitestown Stores on Whitestown Avenue on November 20, 2004.
Garda Clerkin told Mr Damien Colgan BL, prosecuting, that O’Neill came into the shop just as the shopkeeper was closing it for the evening. He was wearing a cap and had a scarf over his face, but the shopkeeper immediately recognised her neighbour.
Garda Clerkin said that the shopkeeper shouted: "Don’t be foolish, Dessie," but O’Neill took €900 in cash and €1,200 in cheques, rolled back over the counter and left.
"They were in fear of their lives," said Garda Clerkin of the two staff members present.
He said O’Neill, who lives with his mother, had one previous conviction, but had clocked up 25 convictions across the east and midlands since committing this crime four years ago.
They were for criminal damage, handling stolen property, unlawfully possessing a prescription, stealing a car, driving without insurance, trespass, theft and burglary.
O’Neill was on a suspended sentence for the burglary when he robbed the shop in Whitestown, but the sentence was never reactivated as he wasn’t caught in time.
He was arrested in April 2005 but denied the crime. "He said he knew what he had been arrested for but denied the charge," said Garda Clerkin.
O’Neill pleaded not guilty until June 2008. The victim had to come to court several times as a result.
Garda Clerkin agreed with Ms Martina Baxter BL, defending, that the shopkeeper, who had run after O’Neill, indicated he was a "junkie".
Ms Baxter said that the victim, who since left that job, told O’Neill’s mother that her son had been accused of robbery.
Ms Baxter said her client was on a methadone programme in the Midlands Prison and was looking healthy.
"He was abusing drugs since 14, having gone down the familiar route of abusing cannabis and progressing onto the horror stuff," she said.
She said that O’Neill had an 11-year-old child and had just broken up with his partner of nine years. "He has changed and yes it took him to the 11th hour," she said.