A man who wielded a sledgehammer as he took part in the looting of a local supermarket during the blizzards of Storm Emma last year has been jailed for 18 months.
Mohammed Smew (aged 26) was one of a number of people who had broken into the Centra store in Tallaght, Dublin when the shop had shut down in response to extreme weather conditions.
Smew, of Milners Square, Shanowen Road, Santry, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to burglary and the production of a sledgehammer at Kiltalawn on March 2, 2018.
Passing sentence today, Judge Melanie Greally said Smew had exploited a dramatic weather event and engaged in behaviour which was “absolutely unacceptable”.
Judge Greally said the Centra had been affected and that the looting had also caused “considerable reputational damage” to the local community in Tallaght.
She said an aggravating factor was the fact that Smew was carrying a sledgehammer which had enormous potential to damage property or persons.
Judge Greally set a headline sentence of four and a half years’ imprisonment, but reduced this to a three-year sentence with the final 18 months suspended.
She gave Smew credit for his guilty plea, his lack of any similar or serious previous convictions, his educational history, his expressions of remorse and his commitment to reform and live a pro-social life.
The judge said Smew came from an extremely respectable, pro-social family of well-educated, professional people and that there was nothing in his background to explain his conduct.
“He appears to have simply been caught up in the mob mentality. This was very much an aberrational event for him,” she said.
The court heard that letters and testimonials had been handed in from Smew’s family, friends and from Griffith College where his place on an educational course remains open for him.
At a previous hearing, Detective Garda David Jennings said he and colleagues went to the shop in Kiltalawn during the blizzards in a 4 x 4 vehicle.
Somebody had used a con saw “like a can opener” to cut a large hole in the shop's steel shutter. A large group of people were coming in and out of the shop and had their faces covered.
The garda said he entered the shop and saw a man coming towards him. This man turned around and ran to the back of the shop.
Det. Gda Jennings called out “armed gardaí” but was unable to draw his firearm because it got caught in his waterproof leggings. He pulled his official extendable baton and followed the man.
The accused was in the back stock room holding a sledgehammer over his head, the detective said.
He told Smew to drop the hammer but Smew came towards him and he struck him with his baton. Smew had claimed in court that he had dropped the hammer when directed to do so.
He has 12 previous convictions for minor offences, of which 11 were for road traffic matters and one for public order.
Carol Doherty BL, defending, told the court that her client came from a respectable family of lawyers and doctors who had a positive influence on him.
Judge Greally ordered that Smew be given credit for the seven months which he has already spent in custody on the matter.
She said he had brought shame on his family, who continued to be very supportive of him.