- Additional reporting by Fiona Ferguson
Two men have been sentenced for their role in the mugging of a 73-year-old woman who had just won €23,000 in a city centre casino.
Declan Connolly (36) who was the getaway driver, was sentenced to five years in prison with the final two and half years suspended, while Brian English (27), who monitored the activities of the woman in the casino, was given a three year suspended sentence.
Connolly of Coultry Drive, Santry Avenue, Dublin 9, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery of the woman outside her home in Templeogue on October 7, 2016. He has 11 previous convictions for minor offences which were dealt with in the District Court.
English of Chancery Hall, North King Street, Dublin, pleaded guilty to stealing the €23,000 from the woman after gardaí were satisfied that he acted as “a spotter” that evening and passed on information in relation to the victim. He has no previous convictions.
The man who actually mugged the victim as she was collecting post from the postbox outside her home has yet to be brought before the courts.
Detective Garda Peter Lyons said gardaí viewed a large amount of CCTV footage from the area and believed that the getaway vehicle had been fitted with false registration plates. They were then able to determine the true details of the car which had been registered to Connolly.
Connolly's home was searched, his mobile phone was seized and analysed and he was arrested. He made no admissions during garda interview.
Det Gda Lyons said CCTV footage from The Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club, where the woman had successfully won the cash playing roulette, showed English monitoring her activities. A warrant was secured to search his home and a mobile phone was taken for analysis.
The analysis showed communication between the phones up to the time the woman left the casino and CCTV footage also showed English approaching Connolly's car at one point.
English was arrested and interviewed but again made no admissions.
Judge Martin Nolan said the woman won €23,000, “the situation was noticed and people decided to rob her”.
He said the woman was followed to her home and Connolly knew that when the third man left his car, that the man's ambition was to rob the victim.
Judge Nolan accepted that English was spotted watching the victim and he was linked back to the crime because of the communication between the phones.
He accepted that Connolly had expressed genuine remorse but said it was a serious crime and a planned out robbery during which violence was used and a substantial amount of money was taken.
Judge Nolan said Connolly played a vital role and “knew what was going to happen” before he suspended the final two and half years of a five year sentence.
Judge Nolan yesterday/on Wednesday remanded English in custody overnight prior to sentencing to consider his case.
Judge Nolan today/on Thursday noted that in relation to English a plea had been accepted to theft and therefore English was not accountable for what happened during the robbery.
He said English's participation in the offence was “giving certain information to certain people.”
In mitigation he noted English's guilty plea, co-operation, lack of previous convictions and likelihood to reform. He imposed a three year suspended sentence and ordered that €6,500 brought to court by English be handed over to garda for transmission to the injured party.
Det Gda Lyons said the woman was dragged down an embankment during the mugging and was left with severe bruising and cuts.
He agreed with Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing BL, defending English, that his client's role was to act as the “spotter in the casino” and that he was “very much out of his depth”.
Det Gda Lyons said he wouldn't expect English to get into trouble again but he never found out why he got involved in the offence. He had €6,500 in court to offer as a token of remorse.
He agreed with Kenneth Kearns BL, defending Connolly, that he has no convictions for violence and has not come to garda attention since. He accepted he had “a positive work history” and is a father to two children.
Mr Ó Dúnlaing said his client was fully aware he had “one foot in the door of Mountjoy Prison” but asked Judge Nolan to accept that his guilty pleas was offered on the basis of “joint enterprise”.
“He is the least culpable. The most culpable isn't even before the court,” counsel submitted before he added that English became involved after he was put under duress to pay off a gambling debt.
Mr Kearns said his client had €5,500 in court to offer as a token of remorse before Connolly took the stand to “apologise for my actions”.
“I have never been involved in anything like this before or since,” Connolly said before he added that he had been attending counselling regularly to deal with his gambling addiction. He had a letter of apology for the victim.