Love/Hate star jailed over €50k armed raid
An actor who starred in the Love/Hate TV series has been jailed for four and a half years after he admitted carrying out a €50,000 armed robbery.
Stephen Clinch - who played Noely in the hit RTE series - owed a drugs debt to a feared Swords-based dealer.
The dealer, who is aged in his late 30s, has managed to stay under the garda radar for years and has no serious convictions.
He has loose links with the 'Mr Big' drugs organisation and is one of the most active dealers in the Kilbarrack and Coolock areas.
Clinch held a loaded semi-automatic pistol to the head of a security worker collecting overnight cash from a bar.
The 49-year-old, of Millbrook Grove, Kilbarrack, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a firearm with intent to commit robbery, and to robbery of €50,730 at The Gate Hotel, Parnell Street, Dublin, on May 11, 2015.
The court heard that Clinch had a history of heroin addiction. His previous convictions include 17 robbery and 13 burglary offences.
These offences date up to 2004 and he has had no serious convictions recorded until this robbery. After his arrest in 2014 Clinch told gardai: "I thought I had my life back on track."
Character referees, including singer Damien Dempsey, Love/Hate producer Stuart Carolan and director Mark O'Connor, described Clinch as a friendly and reliable worker who had given back to his local community.
One victim of the hold-up, Diraj Boodho, told the court the ordeal had left him afraid to leave the house. "I could have been murdered," he said.
At around eight that morning, Mr Boodho was holding two bags of cash takings for lodgement.
He was in the hotel with security worker Michel Cieslik when two men came through a door and demanded the money. The men were dressed like builders, wearing high-vis jackets and white dust masks.
Clinch put the gun to the cheek of Mr Cieslik.
Mr Boodho later told gardai: "When I saw the gun, I thought it was going to finish."
The raiders grabbed the money bags and ran downstairs. As they ran away, Clinch turned back and pointed the gun at Mr Boodho, who ducked.
A maintenance worker, Barry Smith, saw the raiders running and used a bike to try to block their escape. Clinch punched him on the chin but Mr Smith held on to him and got him up against a wall. After a struggle, Clinch ended up on the ground with two staff members lying on his stomach. Gardai arrived to find him like this with the money and handgun on the ground beside him.
Clinch told gardai he had been clean of heroin for nine years. He claimed he didn't know the gun was loaded and didn't want to commit the robbery.
He said he did it because he owed €8,000 after a consignment of drugs he had being given to hide had been discovered. He said the debt "goes up each time".
Judge Martin Nolan said it was an "incredibly frightening" incident and that the victim felt he could have died on the night.
Garda Niall McCormack told Tom Neville, prosecuting, that the gun had been altered to discharge live ammunition and was in fair condition. The four 9mm rounds were found to be in good condition, but were not suitable for use in the pistol.
Mark O'Connor, who said he was a writer and director of films such as Between the Canals and King of The Travellers, said he met Clinch during a 2007 audition.
Clinch went on to star in four feature films and Mr O'Connor said they became very close friends.
He said Clinch was brilliant to work with and that he'd never sought money for any of the films they made together.
In a written reference, producer Stuart Carolan said Clinch was very serious about his work and was courteous and friendly.
Singer Damien Dempsey said he had known Clinch all his life and he was always a friendly face around Donaghmeade.
He said he had guided local people into music and acting and warned them about the horrors of addiction.
Michael O'Higgins, defending, said his client had previously been a chronic drug addict who robbed to feed his habit, but that from 1998 he had had no serious convictions.
"He did well in that period. He was a great possibility to do much good," counsel said.
While waiting for the case to come before court, Clinch attended the funeral of Gary Hutch last October. Hutch was shot dead in Spain.