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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

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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