A man who broke into a property on St Mary’s Square in broad daylight to plug in an electric angle grinder so he could steal coins from a parking meter, was given an 11 month jail sentence in the District Court this week (January 6 ).
The court heard how two gardai were called to the location at 10.25am on December 5 after reports of a man acting suspiciously.
The two gardai apprehended a Mark Smith (40 ) of St Patrick’s Terrace, Athlone and found an angle grinder and drill in his rucksack. A nearby parking meter had been damaged but not breached.
After his arrest, Smith admitted to having broken into a Mondeo and Mercedes at the same location the previous day. Any items stolen from these vehicles were recovered, the court was told.
A figure of €6,967 was given to the court as the total restitution value for the three counts of criminal damage.
Defending solicitor, Mr Padraig Quinn, explained his client had been acting “in a state of disorientation”.
“He is a recovering drug addict who has had difficulties in the past,” said Mr Quinn.
He told the court how Smith had been clean for two years after a jail sentence in 2002 and had worked as a social care worker in Dublin but relapsed after he lost this job.
“When lucid he was contrite,” said Mr Quinn.
“I must say, I am slightly taken aback by the amounts presented [for the scarred meter and two broken windows]. They were only shown to us in the last two days,” said Mr Quinn.
“The purpose of taking an angle grinder to a parking meter was to get money for drugs?” asked Judge John Neilan.
“Yes judge, but he got nothing. It was a durable instrument,” said Mr Quinn about the robust meter.
“It was a very brazen offence. People thought he was going about his normal business.”
The judge wanted to know how the local authority came about the cost of the meter and was told by Superintendent Aidan Glacken that the figure given was for the replacement rather than the repair of the meter.
“I’m concerned he has returned to the abuse of drugs,” said the judge.
“I note he took his venom out on a parking meter. If his mind is so deteriorated he took it out on a parking meter he should get 22 months in prison.
“I will put it back for a probation report and get him to return to Merchants Quay [a drug rehab unit in Dublin].”
The judge gave Smith 11 months for the vandalism of the parking meter but adjourned imposing the sentence until April 14 to await the report.
“But for the present, Mr Quinn, your client doesn’t have a cheque for €6,000 with him this morning?” asked the judge.
He was told he didn’t.
Judge Neilan asked for clarification on how the local authority had come up with the cost presented to court.