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Connacht Tribune

Rapist actor failed to sign Sex Offenders Register

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Convicted rapist Garrett Phillips received a concurrent 11-month sentence today for failing to register as a sex offender while out on bail awaiting sentence.
The 47-year-old former Ros na Rún actor was convicted by a jury on April 18 last of orally raping a then 20-year-old student at a Galway City location in November 2015, following a four-day trial at the Central Criminal Court.
He was allowed out on bail at the time on condition he sign on at his local Garda station in Galway three times a week, to await sentence in July.
In the intervening period, however, Phillips failed to place himself on the Sex Offender’s Register as required following his conviction for rape in April.
He subsequently received a six-year prison sentence in July for the rape offence and is expected to serve four-and-a-half years with remission.
Gardai in Galway moved to have him prosecuted for not registering as a sex offender following his conviction and he was brought in custody before Galway District Court on August 28 last, where he pleaded guilty.

The matter was adjourned to today’s court for sentence where Sergeant Finbarr Philpott said the accused should have notified Gardaí of his personal details, including his address, following his conviction in April, as required by the obligations of the Sex Offenders Act.
The court heard Phillips had complied with his bail conditions by signing on at Galway Garda Station while out on bail awaiting sentence but he was unaware that he had to register on the Sex Offenders’ Register following his conviction.

The court was told Phillips registered as a sex offender in May when he became aware of his obligations while still out on bail awaiting sentence, which was passed on July 9.
Sgt. Philpott said this was a strict liability offence which carried a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months in prison.
Judge Mary Fahy said that Phillips was “in the wrong” not to have registered straight after his conviction, but his defence was that he was going to the Garda station signing on three times a week as part of his bail conditions at the time.
“He was not complying, but it was not a deliberate non-compliance,” the judge said.
She said the original charge was serious and the six-year sentence imposed reflected that.
Noting the guilty plea, the judge sentenced Phillips to 11 months in prison, concurrent to the six-year sentence he is currently serving.

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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