At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys imposed the four-year term, suspending the final 14 months, on Dean O’Connor, aged 24, of Ferndale, Ennis Rd, Limerick.
Mr O’Connor was on bail at the time of the offence and Judge Keys described Mr O’Connor’s “well-planned operation” to falsely imprison, assault and steal from PJ Looney at his isolated home near the west Clare village of Kilmihil in August 2014 as “a cowardly act”.
Judge Keys said: “Attacks of this kind are not uncommon and persons who reside in rural areas must be able to feel safe and secure in their homes. I regard these type of offences as serious.”
The judge said that the motive in Mr O’Connor’s crime “was financial — to rob Mr Looney”. He said: “After assaulting Mr Looney, you then proceeded to tie up his arms and legs.”
In the case, Mr O’Connor and his accomplice, who has never been apprehended, were disturbed by a neighbour and brother-in-law of Mr Looney, Tom O’Sullivan who, alarmed at seeing two strangers in the area, drove his tractor up Mr Looney’s avenue.
The accomplice and O’Connor, who has 28 previous convictions, fled and Mr O’Sullivan — described in court as ‘a man of considerable courage’ — was able to free Mr Looney and raise the alarm.
In his victim impact statement, Mr Looney said: “I remember when I was being attacked, I was so scared I could have been killed when they tied me up. I had injuries to my face and I was badly bruised.”
Mr Looney said: “I live on my own and ever since the break-in, every time I hear strange noises on the side of my house I always remember the attack on me and I get worried and stressed for a minute until I know I am safe.”
Mr Looney was described in court as “a very, very small farmer” and a man of limited means.
In the case, Mr O’Connor pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, burglary and assault of Mr Looney on August 10, 2014, at Shyan West, Kilmihil.
O’Connor and his accomplice rendered Mr Looney “completely immobile” after tying him up with the cable wires.
Detective Garda Donal Corkery said that after Mr O’Sullivan disturbed the robbery, gardaí were on the scene pretty quickly and a holdall bag containing a can of petrol and cable ties were found near the home.
Mr O’Connor was arrested the following month by gardaí where he made admissions. O’Connor’s 28 previous convictions include four for theft; two for burglary and one for assault.
Counsel for Mr O’Connor, Pat Whyms BL told the court: “My client is absolutely appalled at his own behaviour and apologises profusely through me to the victim.”
He said: “He is very disappointed and disgusted with himself that he was involved in an attack on an elderly man.”
He said that in talks with a psychiatrist to draw up a report on Mr O’Connor, Mr O’Connor expressed his horror at his own behaviour and said “that could’ve been my grandfather, the poor man”.
Mr Whyms said Mr O’Connor had lapsed into criminality because of drug use “and has gone off the rails”.