17 months in jail for serial thief

A judge took a leaf from his predecessor’s book on sentencing addicts when he jailed a serial thief for 17 months this week (November 21 ).

Eddie Stephens (23 ), of Sarsfield Square, Athlone pleaded guilty to at least 13 smash-and-grabs from cars around the town between September 23 and November 2, causing €900 of damage, and taking over €2,100 worth of property.

Describing his client as “a recidivist”, Mr Tony McLynn accepted this was Stephens’ modus operandi, and that though he had committed trespass immediately after his last court appearance in November, he was “seeking treatment”.

“The only treatment I’m giving him is a long prison sentence, and he will continue serving lengthy sentences until he cops himself on,” said Judge Seamus Hughes.

It was also revealed that Stephens - who has 58 previous convictions - was released early in September from a six-month sentence handed down on May 23 for a very similar spree in Athlone in February and March.

“I find it pretty egregious that after trying to put the fear of God into people here, then I see this man no sooner leaves this court before he’s breaking into someone’s house. He’s putting it up to me. I only play ball with people who work with me,” said the judge.

Mr McLynn pleaded with the judge not to finalise the sentence on the day, as his client had “held his hands up, and been extremely co-operative with the Gardaí”.

Judge Hughes turned to the defendant’s mother in the public gallery and said: “You understand why I’m sending him back to prison?”

“He’s still taking drugs,” said the defendant’s mother.

“Is he respectful to you?” asked the judge.

“He is when he’s off the drugs, but he’s a different boy on them,” said Mrs Stephens.

“He only has previous [convictions] to satisfy his greedy habit. There’s no point sending him to prison for a short period,” said the judge.

He then recalled sentencing advice he’d heard at a recent lecture by Judge Michael Reilly - now Inspector of Prisons - but previously the District Court judge in Athlone.

Judge Reilly was of the opinion there is little point in giving an addicted prisoner a short sentence where he might be out soon, and re-offending, but to be fair to all, give them a long enough sentence that they receive the treatment they need.

Judge Hughes sentenced Stephens to 11 months in prison for the first of the smash and grab offences, and a concurrent six months for the trespass on the same day as his last court appearance. He also backdated the sentence to Stephen’s first day in custody - November 3.

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