Judge Keenan Johnson was speaking in Portlaoise Circuit Court at the sentencing of three men who were arrested after two garda vehicles were rammed by a stolen jeep at Cloncourse, Mountrath, Co Laois, on July 12, 2016. During the course of the arrest, four gardaí were injured.
Thomas McInerney, aged 40, of Twomey Park, Mountmellick, Co Laois, his brother Gerard McInerney, aged 38, Moonbaun Close, Mountrath, Co Laois, and their cousin William McInerney, aged 37, Newline Close, Mountrath, admitted possessing stolen property at Cloncourse, Mountrath on July 12, 2016.
Chief Superintendent John Scanlon had previously told the court the men were arrested following a significant garda surveillance operation. It had focused on a stolen jeep and trailer that were secreted at woodland in Cloncourse, Mountrath.
The three men were observed attempting to leave the woodland in the stolen jeep. The jeep, which was fitted with bull bars and had been stolen from a farm in June 2016, crashed as it attempted to ram through a garda checkpoint.
All three men, who were in possession of black gloves and balaclavas, were arrested nearby.
One of the four gardaí who was injured during their apprehension has yet to return to work. An unmarked garda car and an Armed Response Unit vehicle were written off during the incident, the court was told.
The three men subsequently admitted to possessing a stolen trailer and the unlawful taking of a vehicle contrary to Section 112 of the Road Traffic Act.
Thomas also admitted possessing a stolen bolt cutter and hacksaw, while William admitted possessing stolen wire cutter and Gerard admitted possessing a stolen hammer. All of the items had been taken from farms in the previous three weeks.
Judge Johnson said “the four gardaí who were injured in the surveillance operation deserve not only our sympathy, but also our support and admiration.”
Noting that the stolen property had come from five different farms, Judge Johnson said there was no evidence that the accused men had taken the items. However, he said, without people to accept stolen property, “such robberies and burglaries would find it more difficult to operate.”
“The court is acutely conscious of the plague of robberies and burglaries that are afflicting rural Ireland and in particular farms on the Midland Circuit. The growth of these types of burglaries and robberies are an attack on the foundations of rural society and the source of much concern and worry to rural dwellers. Rural Ireland has traditionally been built on trust,” said Judge Johnson.
Thomas was handed a five year and three-month sentence with the final 12 months suspended.
William and Gerard each received a four-and-a-half year sentence with the final 12 months suspended.