A former homeless man who set fires in wheelie bins to heat his sleeping bag has been sentenced to three years in prison for arson at two Dublin locations.
Garda Martin Folan accepted at an earlier sentence hearing in December 2017, that Dwayne Barry (30) had set the bins alight so he could wrap his sleeping bag around them and that he had tried to put out the blazes when they got out of control.
Barry, with an address at North Circular Road, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to arson at Ardoyne House, Pembrook Park, Ballsbridge, causing €45,000 damage to two cars on January 25, 2016.
He further pleaded guilty to arson at Burlington House, Waterloo Lane, Ballsbridge which caused structural damage of over €18,000 on February 28, 2016.
Barry has 86 previous convictions including thefts, robberies and criminal damage.
Judge Karen O'Connor had adjourned the case a number of times since hearing the evidence first in December 2017 to give Barry an opportunity to engage with addiction services. He has also been under probation supervision for that period.
Today she sentenced Barry to three years in prison but suspended the final 12 months on strict conditions.
Judge O'Connor accepted that Barry had been “genuinely motivated” and the Probation Service had indicated that he was willing to engage with them. She said arson was a serious offence that could potentially cause significant destruction and endanger lives, before she added that fire was “also difficult to control”.
The judge accepted that Barry apologised and had tried to put the fire out after it had taken hold.
At the earlier hearing Gda Folan told Fiona Murphy SC, prosecuting, that an Ardoyne House resident had a double garage on the premises in which she let her relative park his Porsche and BMW cars.
The court heard that there was a gap between the garage doors and the ground even when locked.
The resident was awoken by her daughter about midnight on January 25, 2016 to say that the Dublin Fire Brigade was on site putting out a blaze in the garage. The Station Officer alerted gardaí about a large steel wheelie bin that had been on fire in the vicinity.
Gda Folan said a total of €45,000 damage was done to the garage and the two cars, which were written off.
The garda revealed that he was investigating this incident from CCTV footage of the area, when he was called about a wheelie bin on fire in close proximity to Burlington House.
The owner later told gardaí that he had to repair air conditioning units, re-plaster the walls, have the gas boiler system serviced, replace glass and repaint the interior as a result of the €18,000 damage.
Gda Folan said about a week later he stopped Barry in the Ranelagh area because he was wearing matching clothes and had a bicycle similar to the person in CCTV footage of the arsons.
Barry was later arrested and interviewed for the offences and he made full admissions.
He said he was living rough, spending his dole money on drink and the only clothes he owned were given to him by charity.
He also told gardaí he set fires in wheelie bins to dry and warm his sleeping bag before spending the night in Herbert Park. He described how he would wander the streets during the day and link in with charities for food.
Gda Folan agreed with Edel Gilligan BL, defending, that her client had made efforts to put out the fires, though these were insufficient. He said he accepted Barry's explanations for setting the wheelie bins alight.
The garda agreed that Barry had been co-operative and had since made genuine efforts to better his life.
Ms Gilligan submitted to Judge O'Connor that alcohol was the root cause of her client's problems. She said Barry had taken steps to address his alcohol problem and was planning to do his Leaving Cert.