A Kilkenny man has been sent to prison for four years following his conviction on two burglary charges that took place while the residents were in their homes.
One incident left residents’ lives ‘turned upside down’ and since the incident they were living in fear and anxiety.
Stephen Kelly, 21 Church Avenue, Castlecomer, pleaded guilty to the two charges.
Detective Garda Edward Laffan told the court that the first incident before the court occurred on March 16, 2021. At approximately 11pm Mr Kelly and a female companion entered a house on Michael Street, Kilkenny. They did not have permission to enter the house. They took a bottle of tequila, without permission, and left.
The man living in the house was present at the time.
Following Mr Kelly’s arrest he was positively identified as the man who entered the house from CCTV in the Michael Street area.
The front door had been left unlocked by the resident and that allowed Mr Kelly gain entry.
Balaclava and torch
A second incident occurred on March 18, 2021, at approximately1.50am, at Rioch Terrace.
Mr Ian Kelly was awoken from sleep to find an intruder in his house, shining a torch on his bedside table. He asked the man what he was doing and Mr Stephen Kelly said he was in the wrong house. A short time later, downstairs, Stephen Kelly pointed a pellet gun at him. It was the property of Mr Ian Kelly, which Mr Stephen Kelly found in the house. It was found at the junction of Stephen Street and Rioch Street the next morning.
Mr Ian Kelly called Mr Diarmuid Madden, another resident, and they followed the intruder as he left and went down the street.
There was no suggestion of any violence being used.
There were four occupants in the house at the time - Mr Ian Kelly and his wife Marie, their daughter Sarah and her partner Mr Madden.
In a victim impact statement, read by Det Garda Laffan on behalf of the four residents, they said the family had been living at the home for 35 years and in that time had never experienced a disturbance of any kind and always felt safe.
The family’s lives had been ‘turned upside-down’ and since the incident they were living in fear and anxiety. They have installed security lights and an alarm system in the home, the first of its kind on the street.
Since that night members of the family have flashbacks and panic attacks. If someone gets up at night everyone wakes, afraid it is an intruder.
Detective Garda Laffan said he was on patrol and responded to a call from the occupants about intruders at the Rioch Terrace home. He was on the scene ‘in seconds’ he said.
Two residents of the house, Mr Ian Kelly and Mr Madden, flagged Det Garda Laffan down on Stephen Street, a short distance from their home. The men pointed out the person who was the intruder, who they had followed.
Mr Kelly was arrested for burglary.
Near the site of his arrest a garda found a torch, beanie hat and spanner.
Det. Garda Laffan said Mr Kelly was quite intoxicated, unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred. He was arrested and taken to Kilkenny Garda Station. On medical advice he was not interviewed immediately, because of his intoxicated state.
CCTV in the area captured a male walking from the location, with a bag on his back and carrying a torch and with something in his hand. Det. Garda Laffan said he was ‘100% confident’ it showed Mr Stephen Kelly leaving the Rioch Terrace house.
The court heard Mr Kelly has been in custody since his arrest in respect of this matter.
There were 67 previous convictions recorded against Mr Kelly, since 2006.These included aggravated burglary, trespass, affray, burglary, entering a premises, assault, criminal damage and motoring offences.
There was damage to the lock of the front door of the house on Rioch Terrace and this appeared to be how he entered, the court heard. The door itself was not damaged.
Defence barrister Jane McCudden said Mr Stephen Kelly had a long history of addiction and substance misuse problems.
She said the Michael Street incident was opportunistic as the door was left unlocked.
Det Garda Laffan agreed that CCTV showed Mr Kelly and his companion were pulling on door handles as they were going along the street. They opened the door and walked in.
Ms McCudden said the resident in the Michael Street house, in his statement, described Mr Kelly as looking like he had ‘taken something’ and he was ‘out of it.’ He was in the house less than 60 seconds.
She said it was a comfort to the injured parties that they did not have to come to court to give evidence, because Mr Kelly pleaded guilty to the charges.
The court heard the pellet gun was an ‘Airsoft’ gun, and Judge Quinn observed that while not a legal firearm ‘someone who was shot with it would get a fair bang off it’.
Ms McCudden said her client had a long history of offending behaviour because of his long history of addiction. Both these offences were committed when he was highly intoxicated. There was no violence in either case.
Mr Kelly has been in custody for over a year and has availed of support services in Clover Hill, including counselling for his addiction, Ms McCudden said. The only time her client had undertaken residential treatment was as a juvenile, which is going back a considerable time. Mr Kelly understands he needs to benefit from residential therapy if he is to conquer his addiction and difficulties.
He appears to have done well while on remand, Ms McCudden said. A report from the prison governor was positive, outlined that Mr Kelly engages well with other prisoners and staff and has ‘enhanced’ status.
Letters of testimonial were handed in to the judge.
Ms McCudden said Mr Kelly has difficulties which need further addressing and asked the court to impose a sentence ‘with structure.’
She acknowledged that while the injured parties were spared the court process the marks will stay on them long after the court process. Mr Kelly had instructed her to convey his sincere apologies to both households.
Judge Cormac Quinn said it was an aggravating factor that both homes had been occupied and he took into account the effects on the residents.
Previous burglary and aggravated burglary convictions were also an aggravating factor.
Mr Kelly’s personal circumstances and early plea were mitigating factors.
For the burglary on Michael Street Judge Quinn imposed a sentence of two years in prison. A concurrent sentence of four years was imposed for the Rioch Terrace burglary. This was backdated to March 18, 2021.
An order was issued for the destruction of the items seized by gardaí.
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