'Menace' sentenced for cancer patient theft

An "absolute menace" who stole from the hospital room of an elderly cancer patient has been given a suspended sentence on strict conditions by Judge Patrick McCartan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

An "absolute menace" who stole from the hospital room of an elderly cancer patient has been given a suspended sentence on strict conditions by Judge Patrick McCartan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Michael McCann (aged 44) has 110 previous convictions, 55 of them for burglary, and was on temporary release from Mountjoy Jail at the time of the theft.

McCann, of Sherard Street Lower, near the city centre, pleaded guilty to burglary of Ms Bernie Walsh in the Mater Private Hospital on September 1, 2008.

Judge McCartan said it was a "particularly nasty offence" and called McCann "a complete and utter menace". He sentenced him to four years, suspended in full for four years, after hearing McCann was making progress in treatment for a heroin addiction.

He warned McCann: "If we meet again there won’t be any further discussions. There won’t be any excuses. I will send you to Mountjoy."

Garda Robert Sheridan told prosecuting counsel, Mr Noel Devitt BL, that the woman woke up to find McCann in her bedroom. He bent over and took her purse from the locker and she ran out of the room to get help. When she returned McCann had fled with the purse and €20.

Gardaí were called and one of them recognised McCann on the CCTV tape. He was arrested a few days later when he appeared before Dublin District Court on another matter.

He admitted the theft and told gardaí he didn’t know how to get methadone and needed to steal money to get heroin. Judge McCartan dismissed this explanation as "complete rubbish".

"He picked the hospital as his target and he was going there with a view to steal. There was nothing opportunistic about this," he commented.

McCann told gardaí in interview, "I didn’t think the woman had cancer. If it’s any consolation I’d like to apologise."

Defence counsel, Mr Luigi Rea BL, said his client was a heroin addict and drug tests showed he was still taking the drug but was trying to get into a treatment programme.

Judge McCartan said there was little about McCann that impressed him but adjourned the matter to allow him to try to get into the programme. He warned him that if he failed to seek treatment he would sentence him to a four-year term.

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