A teenager who hit the director of a children’s detention centre on the head with a metal bar and smashed up the centre has been jailed for four years. Michael Ward, aged 19, of Gleann Riada, Strokestown Rd, Co Longford, pleaded guilty to criminal damage, assault causing harm, and assault while attempting to commit theft at Oberstown Children’s Detention Campus, Lusk, Co Dublin, on May 29, 2017.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Ward is currently serving a four-year sentence, with the final 12 months suspended, for criminal damage offences also committed at Oberstown. Garda Vincent Tierney told Pieter Le Vert, prosecuting, that on the evening in question, Ward asked a staff member at Oberstown if he could use the bathroom.
On their way to the bathroom, Ward began jostling with the staff member who initially thought he was joking. Ward told him not to “take this personally” and they began to struggle. Ward grabbed the man’s security fob, pulled a broken piece of a ceramic plate from his shorts, and said “Don’t fucking come near me”.
Ward and a number of other youths barricaded themselves in an office and armed themselves with metal table legs. The staff member observed Ward break a sink off the wall of the staff bathroom and smash it over the toilet. Pat Bergin, the campus director, arrived at the scene and attempted to prevent the removal of bars from the office door’s smashed window. Ward reached through the window and swung the metal bar, hitting Mr Bergin in the head and causing him to start bleeding.
Ward removed a radiator from a wall and used it as a battering ram to get into a hallway. He and two others obtained an angle grinder from a maintenance shed and used it to cut their way through the campus fence.
He was brought back to Oberstown after the escape and told gardaí he had walked to his grandmother’s home in Crumlin after getting through the fence. He said the incident was not planned and he had not intended to strike Mr Bergin in the head. The total cost of the damage done to Oberstown was €17,135.
Judge Patricia Ryan imposed a four-year sentence for the assaults and a concurrent sentence of five years for the damage. She suspended the last year of both terms after taking into consideration his effort to rehabilitate, his early guilty plea, his young age, and his apology.
Ward has 56 previous convictions, including convictions for theft, burglary, handling stolen property, criminal damage, and public order offences. Garda Tierney accepted the assertion of Dean Kelly, defending, that while “obviously the behaviour described in your evidence is appalling”, Ward could be a “charming” young man. Mr Kelly said the incident was not a “prison break” but was rather a case of three young men “going wild”.
He said that Ward walking across Dublin in the dead of night to his grandmother’s house was not the act of a “master criminal”.