Saturday 22 October 2016

Former drugs counsellor gets suspended sentence for €10k post office robbery

A former chef and drugs counsellor has received a suspended jail sentence for his part in the robbery of a packed post office during which his accomplice threatened a cashier.

The raiders made off with over €10,000. Recovering drug addict Keith McCarthy (38) took part in the raid after he had just relapsed into drug use.

McCarthy had been clean of drugs for ten years. He and his accomplice later escaped on a bicycle with one of them sitting on the crossbar.

The second raider, who had been armed with a lump hammer, was never charged and died shortly after the robbery.

The court heard that the post office in The Square, in Tallaght, Dublin was packed at the time with 40 to 50 customers as well as a large number of staff.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring noted from a statement in the book of evidence that parents asked one member of staff to hide children behind her desk as they were concerned for their safety.

McCarthy and his accomplice were later spotted by gardaí; one was walking while the other was cycling. When officers gave chase the other man hopped on the crossbar of the bike and the pair managed to escape.

McCarthy of Kildonan Avenue, Finglas, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to robbery on May 9, 2013. He had 15 previous convictions for offences including road traffic and theft.

Judge Ring suspended a sentence of four years imprisonment after noting that McCarthy has not offended since the robbery and has taken steps to again deal with his drug addiction.

She suspended the jail term on condition he keeps the peace and continues to take part in drug treatment programmes and to engage in victim awareness work.

Detective Garda Kieran Kilcoyne told Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting, that McCarthy was identified after his fingerprints were found on the getaway bike which had been dumped by a school close to the post office.

He was arrested two weeks after the robbery but exercised his right to silence during the subsequent garda interviews. The money, a total of €10,351, was never recovered.

Bernard Condon SC, defending, told Judge Ring that McCarthy had been working as a chef in a well renowned restaurant in Dublin before he became addicted to heroin which led him into crime.

He got clean after being released from prison. He became a drug counsellor having worked with various rehabilitation programmes and having studied for first a Certificate, then a Diploma and finally a BA in psychotherapy and counselling.

He then relapsed in 2011 after going through some family difficulties and became addicted to street methadone.

“Having been clean for well over a decade, but following a series of events, he was led back to the release of his comfort blanket of the use of drugs, which then led him back towards this offence,” Mr Condon said.

McCarthy told the judge he had “no doubt” that he would be able to get off drugs again. He agreed with Mr Condon that it was “a great disappointment” that he had relapsed.

“I didn’t wake up one day and decide to mess my life up,” Mr McCarthy said before he explained that he stopped using his usual supports and started “taking stuff” to manage his life.

Gda Kilcoyne said tellers in the post office heard a banging sound coming from one end of the counter at 10am that morning before a man, armed with a lump hammer, jumped in behind the desks.

His face was covered and he tried to open each of the cash drawers while running along behind them. He came to one member of staff who had just received a float from the post office manager.

The robber instructed her to open the cash drawer but she said she wasn’t able to because she was shaking with fear. The man shouted “Open the f**king drawers, or I’ll f**king kill you” while gesturing at something in his pocket.

The man got the cash and he and McCarthy fled the post office.

Gardaí arrived at the scene within minutes having been alerted to the raid by the manager. Eye witnesses told them that the culprits had escaped on the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass into a nearby park.

McCarthy and his accomplice were then spotted by gardaí on the bike; one was walking while the other was cycling. When officers gave chase the other man hopped on the crossbar of the bike and the pair managed to escape.

Gda Kilcoyne agreed that McCarthy stayed at the door of the post office during the raid and that was the extent of his role.

Gardai viewed CCTV footage of the raid and saw that it was McCarthy’s accomplice who was armed with a lump hammer. Gda Kilcoyne confirmed that the accused didn’t have a weapon.

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