Judge Francis Comerford, sentencing Bernard Quigley, of Branchfield, Drumfin, Co Sligo, said the theft had been “an affront and an attack on the sanctity of an Irish town”. He suspended the last two years of the sentence and backdated it to August 15, 2014, when the accused was taken into custody in connection with the theft at the Bank of Ireland, Teeling St, Tubbercurry.
The judge pointed out that the damage to the bank and the cost of replacing the ATM safe had been over €40,000. The judge said that while all the cash in the ATM had been recovered by gardaí, this was not to the credit of the accused but was thanks to the members of the public who alerted gardaí and to the “speediness and efficiency of the Garda response”.
The judge said he was taking into account the fact there was no violence and no firearms used in the theft. It was “a less serious offence than someone going into a bank with a gun or a weapon and putting people in fear of their lives”, he added.
However, the judge told the accused, a separated father of six, that anyone involved in such a crime was aware of the risk that members of the public could get caught up in it. “In this case, the response from the public was exemplary,” he said.
He pointed out that witness Paul Murphy, who had followed the culprits when they made off with the ATM safe, had described how the the bucket of the digger had been swung at him in the course of the theft.
Judge Comerford said he also accepted Mr Murphy’s evidence that when he followed the thieves up a narrow country road, one of them had run at him brandishing a large implement.
Det Sgt Tom Colsh, who agreed with Alan Toal, defending, that the accused man was a “happy-go-lucky guy”, said gardaí had traced him through a Done Deal advertisement for a low-loader truck used in the raid.
He recalled gardaí were quickly on the scene and found an abandoned van and trailer with the ATM still on it, close to Tubbercurry a short time after the robbery.
During the 17-day trial, Sligo Circuit Court heard the accused used a stolen Komatsu digger to rip the ATM safe out of the wall of the Tubbercurry bank at about 5am on January 29, 2014.
The judge said the raid had been premeditated and pointed out a considerable amount of planning had gone into stealing the digger and acquiring other vehicles to be used in the raid.
Quigley had denied three charges in connection with the theft.
Judge Comerford sentenced him two concurrent sentences of seven and a half years with two years suspended for the theft of the ATM safe and for causing criminal damage to the bank wall and ATM housing. The defendant was given a further concurrent sentence of four years for being in possession of a stolen digger.