Two Letterkenny men who caused €82,000 of damage to three apartments as they stole copper cylinder and piping have been spared jail sentences.
Brendan Dunleavy (28 ) and Darren Doherty (32) were part of a gang of three who planned and carried out the thefts at student association at The Port Road in Letterkenny on February 22nd, 2012.
Letterkenny Circuit Court heard that a security guard became suspicious after he spotted a Mercedes lorry parked at the student accommodation at 10.45pm.
The security guard told gardaí that he saw a man exit the lorry and flee the scene.
Gardaí visited Aras Derek Hill and in apartments 2, 3 and 14 they found that copper cylinders and piping had been removed. A large amount of water was flowing down and had left the apartments flooded.
A number of tools including hacksaws and a sledgehammer were found at the scene.
A photocopy of a driving license was found in the lorry, which had been hired for the burglaries, belonging to a third member of the gang who was not in court.
Gardaí contacted the man, who had rented the lorry, and he made voluntary admissions about the theft and gave the names of the two other men involved.
Dunleavy, of Ballymacool, Letterkenny told gardaí that on the Sunday before the burglary, he was in the pub with the third man and the conversation came up of how to make some extra money.
The third man said he knew there was copper in the apartment block. The following Wednesday he rang Dunleavy and asked him would he go through with the plan.
Agreed to take part
He agreed and contacted Doherty and he also agreed to take part.
The three men met up on the night and drove to the apartments. Doherty stayed in the lorry to keep watch while Dunleavy and the other man went to the apartments and became removing the copper.
They fled the scene and were later collected by Doherty who had gone home and to get his car.
Dunleavy, who works as a carpenter, admitted that two of the hacksaws found at the scene where his.
Prosecuting counsel Patricia McLaughlin (BL) told the judge that €30,000 of damage was done to one of the apartment and €26,000 to each of the other two.
The impact of the water after the cylinders were removed had done a huge amount of damage, she said.
Garda Corcoran said these types of thefts were “not an uncommon event” and the copper would be sold at scrap yards on either side of the border.
Counsel for Dunleavy, Damian Crawford (BL), said it was the only time that the accused dad come before the court and he was ashamed of his actions. “It was out of character and got involved in an act of stupidity at a time when he needed money,” he said.
Counsel for Doherty, Ciaran Elders, said his client, who works as a machinery driver, was extremely remorseful and was only engaged in the thefts at the last minute.
Mr Elders said his client was previously of good character and this was a blot on his copy book.
The court heard that neither men had any related previous convictions and Doherty just had a previous conviction for non display of motor tax.
Each defendant handed over €10,000 to be paid to the owners of the apartments.
Judge John O'Hagan said the men were all equally responsible for the burglaries.
“They did a runner and in their trail, they left absolute total and utter destruction,” he said.
He said they had no right to be in the apartments.
The maximum sentence was 14 years and the judge said the offences lay in the middle of the range.
“I can’t get across to you clearly enough how serious these offences are,” he said.
Taking in their plea and their clean records, he said the crimes merited sentences of three and a half years in prison.
He substituted the jail terms with 240 hours community service and told both men that they owed the community service to the cases made on their behalf by their counsels.