By Jessica Magee
A Dubliner who posed as a handyman and stole over €32,000 from an 89-year-old woman has been sentenced to three years in prison, with the final 20 months suspended.
Brian O'Neill (aged 47) pleaded guilty to 99 counts of theft amounting to a total of €32,460, carried out over an 18-month period starting from October 2013.
Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Judge Patricia Ryan described the crime as a “complete breach of trust of a vulnerable, elderly person”.
Judge Ryan said it was a planned, premeditated offence, and noted that a probation report placed O'Neill at “moderate risk” of re-offending. However, she gave O'Neill credit for his early guilty plea, his good employment record and his remorse.
The court heard that O'Neill, of Clarence Mangan Road in Dublin 8, lived very close to the injured party, Teresa Byrne and began calling to her house to carry out odd jobs that he said needed to be done.
Ms Byrne paid O'Neill for his work in a combination of cash and cheques, but at some point, he stole her chequebook and started writing cheques for himself.
Garda Colleen Doherty told John Quirke BL, prosecuting, that on August 19, 2014, Ms Byrne arrived at her bank in a distressed state.
Her bank manager alerted her to the fact that her account was severely depleted, and pointed her attention to numerous cheques drawn down in the name of a Brian O'Neill.
The bank manager then contacted gardaí on behalf of Ms Byrne.
Ms Byrne told gardaí that O'Neill had called to her house that morning demanding €400 in cash, which he claimed she owed him. She told him she would have to go the bank for the money, and he replied that he would be back that afternoon to collect the cash.
Garda Doherty said she accompanied Ms Byrne back to her home, and witnessed O'Neill calling to her door.
O'Neill was not aware that gardaí were inside the house and he became loud and aggressive, demanding that Ms Byrne give him the money and shouting: “You're messing me around”.
Gardaí then staked out O'Neill's home and obtained a search warrant for it. He was arrested finally on May 14, 2015.
Luigi Rea BL, defending, said O'Neill had a total of €1,750 to offer to Ms Byrne as a practical expression of his remorse.
The court heard that the bank had refunded all of the money to Ms Byrne that O'Neill had stolen from her, and that the bank itself was now at a loss.
Mr Rea said his client had trained in a trade but that he had suffered an injury and received compensation, after which he developed problems with alcohol and gambling.
He said the probation report showed that O'Neill had tackled his gambling issues and had been employed for the last one and a half years.
Judge Ryan suspended the final 20 months of the sentence, on condition that O'Neill comply with probation services for one year on his release from prison.
She also ordered him to engage in offence focus and victim focus work, to continue to address his addiction difficulties and to attend all appointments as directed.