Jail for burglar who assaulted man, 74, and his 40-year-old daughter

By Fiona Ferguson

A burglar who assaulted a 74-year-old man and his 40-year-old daughter in his efforts to escape from their house has been jailed for three years.

Gary O'Brien (20), who said he had been “out of his head” on tablets and sambuca, was restrained on the bathroom floor by the elderly man until gardaí arrived.

O'Brien, of Old Connaught View, Bray, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to burglary and two counts of assault at the family's home in Dalkey on September 26, 2017.

The court heard O'Brien, who has 49 previous convictions, suffered an acquired brain injury as a 16-year-old after being struck from behind with a hammer.

Judge Martin Nolan noted the assault perpetrated on O'Brien had lead to considerable issues for him in terms of treatment and still caused him problems. He also took into account that O'Brien wanted to rehabilitate himself.

He said that despite this it was a serious crime and must be dealt with a serious way. He imposed a three year sentence, consecutive to a 22 month district court sentence that O'Brien is currently serving.

Judge Nolan said the sentence would have been longer if it were not for the particular circumstances of O'Brien's acquired brain injury.

Garda Paul Hughes told John Quirke BL, prosecuting, that gardaí were alerted at 2am that two males had been attempting to enter a home.

Gda Hughes was met by two distressed women at the scene, a 70 year old woman and her 40 year old daughter. The daughter had cuts to her arm and a bloody nose. She told him her father was restraining a male in the bathroom.

Gda Hughes said there was broken glass, pots and furniture around the house. He found the elderly man in the bathroom holding an abusive male on the floor of the bathroom.

The daughter told Gda Hughes that she had been awoken earlier that night by her mother screaming downstairs and came out of her bedroom to see a male in grey hooded top. She screamed and shouted at him to get out of the house.

She struggled back down the stairs with the male and her father came out of his room to help her.

Downstairs the male ran to the dining room where the struggle continued, with household items getting broken. A second male began kicking at the front door in an effort to get in.

The father managed to restrain O'Brien, who was shouting “I will get you”. Gardaí who had been alerted by the elderly women were nearby and arrived quickly on the scene.

The 74-year-old man suffered bruising and cuts to his body, while his daughter described herself as feeling “battered” the following day. She said she felt anxious and vulnerable following the burglary, as well as paranoid about safety in the home.

The 40-year-old woman said in her victim impact statement:

“I felt the need to scrub every inch of the house, I just wanted him out of the house in a sense by cleaning.”

The court heard there was €3,000 worth of damage done to the house.

O'Brien told gardai he couldn't remember anything about the events. He said he had been “out of his head” on Sambuca and tablets. He said he had not gone into the house to hurt the occupants.

Gda Hughes agreed with Ronan Prendergast BL, defending, it was not a “targeted burglary” and the occupants were not known to O'Brien. He agreed that when the state of the occupants of the house was put to O'Brien he could not believe he could have done it.

Mr Prendergast said as a 16-year-old O'Brien had suffered a brain injury after being hit from behind with a hammer. He handed in a number of reports to Judge Nolan and outlined O'Brien's treatment at the National Rehabilitation Centre and the ongoing care he required.

He said O'Brien, a father of one, had difficulties with tablet misuse and had made attempts to attend addiction counsellors. He said O'Brien was remorseful and had conveyed an apology to the victims.

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