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Prison for man who conned pensioner out of cash

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A convicted sex offender will serve one year in prison for coercing a charitable and trusting 82-year-old woman into giving him large sums of cash over a twelve-month period.

Ethan Ward (25), 27 Lui na Greine, Western Distributor Road, Knocknacarra, is currently serving one year or a two-year prison sentence, imposed on him on May 12 last, for sexually assaulting a vulnerable 16-year- old schoolgirl in a fast-food restaurant toilet.

That sentence is due to expire on January 4 next, Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard this week.

Meanwhile, Ward pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court two weeks after the May sentence hearing, to inducing the elderly woman to give him €1630 cash on dates between April and December 2015.

He pleaded guilty also to stealing a €1,000 cheque from the woman and lodging it in his own account on a date between January 2015 and January of this year and to inducing the woman to give him a further €250 on January 8 last.

He further pleaded guilty to inducing the woman to give him €90 cash on January 6 last.

The theft and fraud offences were committed while Ward was out on bail, awaiting sentence for the sexual assault on the schoolgirl.

Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy said at the time that the pleas to the above charges were acceptable on the basis that Ward was admitting his guilt to three other similar charges of deception.

Sentence was adjourned to July for the preparation of a probation report on Ward and an impact statement from the victim. The court in July heard Ward had not bothered to attend his probation appointments in the prison, so he could not be assessed.

Garda Karen Higgins told the sentence hearing at the time that it would never be known exactly how much money Ward took, but the woman had estimated it was at least €3,000.

The woman told Garda Higgins last January she had been giving money to Ward for a year and she had just realised he had been lying to her about his circumstances.

The woman first encountered Ward begging outside various churches around the city a year ago and he told her his name was Ethan O’Leary and he needed money to stay in hostels.  She took pity on him and gave him money on a few occasions.

He then turned up at her home and she was concerned about that because she had not told him where she lived.

Garda Higgins said the victim was a very kind person and she felt sorry for Ward.  She regularly gave him money when he called to her home and if she did not have any cash in the house, Ward would accompany her to the ATM machine, walking a few meters behind her.

“She used to give him cups of tea and things to eat when he’d call to her home. As it went on, she felt pressured into giving him money and he started calling more regularly to her home.”

On one occasion the woman wrote a cheque to “Ethan O’Leary” but her suspicions were aroused when it was never cashed.

She wrote another cheque to the same name and went with food to a hostel where Ward told her he was staying, but staff there told her no one named O’Leary was staying there.

The woman finally confided in her local priest and the Gardai were contacted.

Garda Higgins said that on a previous occasion, Ward stole a blank cheque from the woman while in her house and later cashed it, to the value of €1,000.

Ward was arrested outside the woman’s home last January.

A roll of duct tape and three wire coat hangers were found when Gardaí searched his rucksack.

“He never showed any remorse and he denied defrauding this 82-year-old woman. She’s too scared to come to court,” Garda Higgins said in July.

“She knows she gave him a lot of money and she feels very gullible.

“He always had a story she believed.  She didn’t know at the time that he was a con artist and a criminal.  She thinks she may have given him €3,000.

“She now finds it hard to trust people and is more cautious answering the door.

“Being an educated woman, she feels hurt and annoyed she let someone like him con her,” Garda Higgins added.

The court heard Ward was using the money taken from the woman to feed his €100-a-day heroin addiction.

Before that he was living off his wife and two children’s welfare allowances.

Garda Higgins said he had 19 previous convictions, the latest being for defilement of a child for which he was currently serving one-year of a two-year sentence imposed in May.

He had other convictions for thefts, burglaries, possession of drugs, knives and public order offences.

Judge Rory McCabe said at the time that the maximum sentence for the crime of deception was five years, while the maximum for theft was ten.

He said the deception charges before the court merited a three-year sentence while the theft of the cheque merited five years.

“This man engaged in a nasty campaign of ‘milking’ money from this lady and she eventually became afraid not to give him money.

“She finally went to the Gardaí and it emerged that, not only had he pressured her for cash, but he stole a cheque and cashed it for €1,000 too,” the judge said.

Judge McCabe noted Ward had previous convictions for crimes of dishonesty while his victim was vulnerable, decent and defenceless.

Sentence was adjourned to this week to give Ward another chance to engage with the probation service and a mixed, up-to-date report was handed into court.

Judge McCabe said that while the probation report which was now before the court, was positive in places, there were negatives too, not least the fact that Ward thought his offending was not too serious as he had not used violence or threatened to use violence against the woman.

He sentenced Ward to three years in prison for the theft of the cheque and imposed concurrent two-year sentences for the deception charges.

He said he wanted Ward to spend another year in prison for the offences and to that end, he suspended the final two years of the three-year sentence and the final year of each two-year sentence, for three years.

Ward’s year in prison will begin on January 4 next, the Judge said.

Judge McCabe said he wanted the suspended portion of the sentences to act as a deterrent to Ward to not reoffend and the suspensions were granted, he said, on condition Ward come under the supervision of the probation service for twelve months on his release from prison, attend addiction counselling, abstain from drugs, and provide regular urine analysis tests – to be paid for by himself – to the probation service.

The judge warned Ward he was to contact the probation service himself and if he did not comply with all of the service’s requirements, he would be brought back before the court and made serve the suspended portion of the sentences.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara

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Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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