A former Meath county footballer charged with 26 offences in Moate, Kinnegad, Kells, and Ballyjamesduff was remanded on continuing bail until December 14 in the District Court this week (October 26 ) for a probation report after he was warned he could face up to two years in jail.
Stephen Cooney (20 ), formerly with addresses in all the aforementioned towns but now living at Rectory Meadows, Edenderry, Co Offaly had initially indicated a plea of not guilty to all bar one of the charges but his solicitor Mr Padraig Quinn asked the court for some time in which he suggested “we might make some progress”.
After warning Cooney: “If he fights these charges and is convicted he will face a much more severe sentence”, Judge Seamus Hughes accepted Mr Quinn’s suggestion, saying: “It might be in his interest, because it could take the inspector an hour to read out his charges”.
When he returned a little later Mr Quinn indicated his client was willing to plead guilty to all bar one of the charges, at which Inspector Aidan Minnock immediately asked for it to be struck out.
“Your generosity knows no bounds,” said the judge, who then asked for a brief outline of the offences.
He heard how Cooney was drunk and abusive to gardaí in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan on June 25, 2010 and again in Kinnegad on August 28, 2010 where a second squad car was required to apprehend him.
Then, at around 8.20am on July 6, 2010 he was involved in a “crime spree” with a number of other youths in Moate where 12 cars were broken into, €1,000 worth of property was stolen from them, and €5,000 worth of damage was done.
“So when people in Moate got out of their beds to go to work they found their cars damaged?” asked Judge Hughes, whose incredulity was stretched even further when Inspector Minnock told him that none of the four co-criminals were to be brought before the courts because of their age.
“ I think it’s scandalous that these little criminal generals, who will be before me sooner rather than later, should not be brought before the court,” he said.
Inspector Minnock continued with Cooney’s charges, which included possession of €50 worth of cannabis on May 6, 2010, and crashing a stolen car whilst drunk in Kells, Co Meath on September 23, 2010. The remainder were various bench warrants for not showing up in court, which led to Cooney appearing this week from custody. The court heard how Cooney has yet to face two more charges of assault in the Circuit Court on November 29.
Mr Quinn told the court his client, who had no previous convictions: “was an entirely different animal when under the influence, but when he sobers up is very personable”.
He explained how Cooney was from a very respectable family, had done the Leaving Cert, and one year of college, and had played minor football for Meath before breaking both his legs.
“He expects a jail term and that’s why he hasn’t applied for bail,” said Mr Quinn.
“I’m obliged to get a probation report on your client,” said Judge Hughes, before remanding Cooney on continuing bail until December 14. Inspector Minnock had no objection to bail.