A man who served a sentence for the manslaughter of his best friend over a decade ago will be sentenced next week for burglary at St James's Hospital.
Mark McCowan (aged 32), of Knockmore Crescent, Tallaght, was before Judge Patrick McCartan, having been found guilty following a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of committing the burglary on February 18, 2007.
Garda Andrew O'Connor told Ms Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that a nurse found the father-of-one trying to open a drugs trolley with a key in the clinical room of the Anne Young Ward, to which only doctors and nurses have keys. He was a patient awaiting nasal surgery, which was not then carried out.
Garda O'Connor said McCowan had 38 previous convictions dating from 1993.
McCowan, who was given a five-year sentence in 1995 for the manslaughter, was jailed for six years in 2001 by the then Judge Elizabeth Dunne (now Ms Justice Dunne of the High Court) for a series of violent offences, including robbing a taximan, committed shortly after his release from the first prison term.
The court was told in 2001 that his father was then in prison serving a lengthy sentence and that McCowan suffered from serious health problems.
The 2001 hearing was also told that McCowan had been introduced to heroin by an uncle who had later died from the drug.
Garda O'Connor agreed with Mr Derek Cooney BL, defending, that McCowan was drunk at the hospital and that most of his convictions since 1996 related to drunkenness.
Mr Cooney said his client is now single and living with his mother. His partner of 14 years died from a drug-related heart attack last year and their child is being cared for by her aunt. His brother had also died of a drug-related illness.
Mr Cooney said one of McCowan's cousins had frozen to death on a Sea Cat ferry, one had died of a drug overdose and another had died by suicide. His mother, a catering manager in St James's Hospital, was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, having had a tumour removed.
He said McCowan had swapped drugs for alcohol and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in prison, where he has been in custody for 13 months on this charge. He said McCowan realised his lifestyle would result in death, and was trying to come off his daily 30ml of methadone.
"His serious crimes were committed when he was high and strung out on drugs," said Mr Cooney. "He's turned his life around and has been giving clean urines."
The maximum sentence for this crime is 14 years and McCowan wrote a letter to the judge asking for the opportunity to tackle his problems.
Judge McCartan adjourned sentencing for production of urine analysis reports.
"I'm not suggesting that if it's clean, I won't consider a custodial sentence," he said. "But it is a factor."