Judge jails seven brothers for pub riot

Seven brothers who were among a group of people who violently took over a north Dublin pub and caused €90,000 of damage have received sentences of between four and two-and-a-half years each.

Martin (aged 41), David (aged 37), Brian (aged 31), Christopher (aged 27), Paul (aged 26), William (aged 25) and Stephen (aged 24) Lawrence all pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to violent disorder at John D's Pub, Dublin Road, Balbriggan on Bank Holiday Monday May 4, 2009.

The Lawrence brothers comprised of four Balbriggan men, David of Gardiners Hill, Paul of Hamilton Terrace, William of Milara Court and Stephen of Pinewood Green Road; along with Martin of The Dunes, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo; Brian of Talbot Hall, Applewood, Swords and Christopher of Mourne Park, Skerries.

Judge Katherine Delahunt sentenced David Lawrence, who had been barred from the family-run pub and whom she described as the “ring leader”, to four years in jail with the final 12 months suspended.

She said David Lawrence had been the most threatening on the day and had thrown a bottle at Mrs Sinead Roe, one of the licensees.

She sentenced Christopher, Paul, William and Martin Lawrence each to two years and six months with the final year suspended.

The judge gave two-year sentences each to Brian and Stephen Lawrence and suspended the final 12 months in both cases.

She accepted each man, particularly Brian Lawrence, had entered early guilty pleas, had expressed remorse and shame and had gathered a combined €9,200 compensation which included some of the brothers' bail money.

She acknowledged the various amounts raised reflected the brothers' personal circumstances, but told them she would never accept alcohol abuse as a reason for offending behaviour.

She said: “Each of you to a greater or lesser extent caused the damage and you all participated in wanton vandalism.”

Sergeant Liam Donahue told Mr Garrett Baker BL, prosecuting, that the pub had been under the control of the group for about an hour and three quarters before being reclaimed by force by the garda public order unit. The damage to the pub cost €90,000 to be repaired.

He said Mr William Roe had taken the lease on the pub about 11 months beforehand and had spent about €45,000 on decorating and fireproofing the pub in that time.

Mr Roe told gardaí after the incident the scene inside the pub was "similar to a battle zone."

Televisions, furniture, beer pumps, shelves and plaster work had been smashed and 103 panes of glass had to be refitted. A snooker table had been pushed up against a back door to prevent gardaí gaining access.

Judge Delahunt described the bothers’ violent and drunken behaviour as “wanton vandalism” which ruined the “hopes and aspirations” of the Roe family, who are now unemployed as a result.

Mr Roe told gardaí that the Lawrence family had been in the pub since the afternoon and had drunk approximately five pints each.

Sgt Donahue said Mr Roe received a phone call from a member of staff at about 6.30pm that day to say that David Lawrence, who was barred from the pub, had been refused a drink.

Mr Roe said he would come down to the pub and on his way met a garda and told him of the situation. Mr Roe waited outside while the garda went inside. He heard furniture being smashed and people calling out "travellers rights".

A bar man working in the pub said when David arrived in the pub he was aware he had been barred.

Mr Roe's niece, Ms Rachael McDonagh, heard David say "F**k Willie and f*k his bar, I am the bar man now" and a female member of the group started clapping. She heard David scream "No one is getting in or out of this pub. The next person to come in is getting bottled."

David Lawrence was observed on CCTV behind the bar helping himself to drinks.

Mrs Sinead Roe said she told David to get out from behind the bar and he threw a bottle which smashed against a wall. David told her to "Get out and send Willie in."

Mrs Roe switched off the electricity and saw windows being smashed but did not see who did it.

Garda Kevin Fitzpatrick had spoken to David prior to the pub being damaged. Gda Fitzpatrick said in his statement that Paul and William also came outside and William shouted: "We are sick of you, we are going to riot."

Gardaí retreated until the public order unit arrived at 8.20pm and while they attempted to gain entry David sprayed a fire extinguisher out through a broken window. They successfully reclaimed the pub at 8.45pm.

Sgt Donahue said CCTV footage showed the men, some of them shirtless, variously barricade the pub doors with stools, smash windows, break tables, smash pumps, spill alcohol and try to force the door to the office where the CCTV equipment was stored.

David is seen at one point to escort a female garda from the pub after she became surrounded.

Bottles and stools were also thrown and fire extinguishers sprayed at the garda public unit as they tried to gain entry.

Sgt Donahue said the CCTV footage cut out for a time when the electricity was switched off and when it resumed all the damage to the pub had been done.

Christopher has 12 previous convictions, Paul has 33, William has 29, David has 3, Stephen has 32, Martin has 24 and Brian has 16 convictions. Most of the convictions were for minor road traffic and public order offences

Defence counsel for the seven men submitted that they had expressed remorse for the incident and each had brought to court sums of money as compensation which together totaled approximately €9,000.

The men had entered guilty pleas saving the time and expense of a trial and counsel asked the court to show what leniency it could.


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