A man returned to his isolated house to find two intoxicated burglars asleep in his bed.
Caroline O’Brien (27), a native of Newcastle, in Galway city, who now lives in Cappaghmore, Kinvara, pleaded before Galway Circuit Court last week to burglary on June 1, 2016 at the house which is located near Labane.
Garda Stephen Joyce from Gort Garda Station told the sentence hearing he received a complaint from a man who said he had returned home in the early hours to find the back door of his house had been forced open.
He crept inside and found a couple asleep in his bed. He left the property quietly to go and ring the Gardaí, but when Garda Joyce and the man arrived at the house a short time later, the couple were gone.
Garda Joyce said he noticed blood stains on the ground near where two panes of glass had been broken to gain entry to the property. There were further blood stains on the walls and in the toilet inside the house.
They noticed a jewellery box was thrown on the ground which the man said had belonged to his mother.
Garda Joyce said he drove down the road and came upon a couple walking along wearing dark clothing. Both of them were intoxicated and O’Brien was drinking a can of alcohol at the time.
They were arrested after admitting they had come from the man’s house.
An old gold watch, which had belonged to the man’s mother, was found in O’Brien’s handbag.
She readily admitted her involvement in the burglary.
Garda Joyce said O’Brien had 49 previous convictions, eight of which were for thefts while another was for trespass and she had served terms of imprisonment in the past.
He said he had known her since she moved to the area with her partner. “While sober she is fine to deal with, but when she consumes alcohol it generally causes issues,” he said.
The Garda also confirmed O’Brien had handed over €150 for the cost of repairing the glass panes in the victim’s home.
Garda Joyce said that while the man was happy to receive the compensation he had been left traumatised by the burglary, particularly because of his mother’s watch being taken, and he had not wanted to come to court or make a victim impact statement.
Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, summed up his client’s battle with alcohol when he said: “My client’s periods of intoxication have outweighed periods of sobriety in her life so far.”
He said O’Brien had told Gardai during interview that she and her partner had been drinking with others near a river and on the way home her partner told her the house was a squat and they broke in.
They went to bed and woke up at 2.30am to find a man looking down on them. They left the house after the man left and hid outside for a while.
O’Brien told Gardai her partner had given her the watch but she accepted her culpability from the start, Mr McCarthy said.
A probation report on his client was not “helpful” the barrister said. Probation officer, Pat Mitchell, had found that O’Brien did not avail of residential treatment opportunities in the past and was unwilling to do so now either.
However, Mr McCarthy said that antabuse medication, administered by her GP, had worked for O’Brien before and she was willing to go down that route again if given a chance.
Judge Rory McCabe said there was little likelihood of the anti-booze medication working.
Noting the charge of burglary carried a maximum 14-year sentence, he said the homeowner had suffered a “dreadful, shocking and frightening experience”, to come home and find two people in his bed and to find his mother’s watch had been taken also.
“She (O’Brien) is an habitual drinker and an habitual criminal and the two may be linked,” the judge said.
He indicated the appropriate sentence was four years before granting Mr McCarthy’s application to adjourn the sentence for four weeks to await the findings of a further probation report.