A armed robber who was caught with a loaded shotgun outside a family home in Cork last year has been jailed for 14 years.
Defence senior counsel Brendan Nix complained at the sentencing hearing for Niall Fitzpatrick: “I have never seen in my entire existence such a lust to put someone behind bars.”
He also complained about the behaviour of armed members of the regional support unit (RSU) present in court during the five-week trial. “Sexing up the equipment, and this drama placed up in front of the jury, I consider that quite dishonest,” said Mr Nix.
The lawyer said an RSU presence in court was due to Fitzpatrick escaping from custody more than 12 years ago. It occurred at Cork District Court 2002, moments after the accused was brought to court from a holding cell.
He jumped up on the judge’s bench, ran across it, used the judge’s door to get out into the yard at Anglesea St courthouse, vaulted a wall, and fled in a waiting car. While the escape conviction was referred to yesterday, it had been the third time Fitzpatrick had fled from custody.
Meanwhile, the most serious crimes in Fitzpatrick’s 63-conviction history had been an eight-year sentence for armed robbery in Cork in 2003 and, before that, a seven-year term for armed robbery in Dublin in 1993.
Judge David Riordan noted that the latest crime, while armed with a shotgun occurred in August 2013, was 20 years on from the first armed robbery conviction.
Escorted from Cork Circuit Criminal Court to a prison van yesterday afternoon, Fitzpatrick wore a plastic bag with two eye-holes over his head and shouted: “I’m innocent of this fucking charge.”
A jury delivered guilty verdicts a fortnight ago against Fitzpatrick, aged 47, with an address at Corrin Close, The Glen, Cork, on charges of possession of a Remington 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and ammunition and attempted aggravated burglary at the home of Patrick Glavin at Rougrane, Glanmire, Co Cork, on August 11, 2013.
Judge Riordan said part of the function of sentencing was to deter Fitzpatrick, or others minded to commit similar crimes, and he said the crimes at Rougrane were at the higher end of the scale.
“The crimes took some degree of planning, a certain amount of stealth, and preparation was also involved,” said the judge. “The court must have regard to his personal circumstances. He has a young family and is in a committed relationship. I am not told he was labouring under an addiction.”
Applying for some part of the 14 years to be suspended, Mr Nix said: “He will be almost 60 years of age when he comes out.”
Judge Riordan said: “I am aware of that. I factored that in.”
Det Insp Brian Goulding said yesterday gardaí had obtained confidential information the Glavin family had been targeted for a raid to take place at their home, when they were present, as it was believed there would be a significant quantity of cash kept in a safe at their home.
The family was advised by gardaí to leave the house. Eleven members of the RSU hid in various places inside and outside the Glavin house.
Three men approached the house and one of them climbed up on the windowsill to the office where the window was open. An officer detonated a stun grenade giving off what was described as 3m candles of light to disorientate the three men.
Each officer activated a torch at the end of a sub-machine gun and pointed it at the men. They identified the one man armed with a shotgun as Fitzpatrick. The three men jumped over a wall to get away. Two were caught shortly afterwards and the accused escaped.
Fitzpatrick denied at the scene on the night and he told gardaí in an interview that he had spent that day fishing, buying chicken for dinner, making dinner, playing with his kids, and later drinking with friends.
Det Insp Goulding said it was a co-accused who targeted the Glavin home. Thereafter, he and Fitzpatrick carried out a period of reconnaissance, visiting the location a number of times. A third man became involved later.
The suspected ringleader, who previously pleaded guilty and had fewer previous convictions, got 15 years with the last three suspended. The third man, who got involved “late in the day”, got 10 years with the last three suspended.
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