Scales of justice weigh heavily against repeat youth offender

A teenage burglar, whose mother said she was “actually disgusted with him”, was jailed for a total of nine months this week (February 12 ) after he pleaded guilty to another 15 charges.

Inspector Nicholas Farrell gave details of the most recent offences not previously detailed in court.

He explained how the youth - who can’t be named because he won’t be 18 until later this month - was found by gardaí in the Willow Park area in the early hours of February 5 to be in possession of a bag of varied electronic goods which he admitted to have taken from two addresses in the vicinity.

When the inspector explained that both houses were occupied at the time, Judge Seamus Hughes declared to the defendant: “There were people asleep in their beds and someone was walking around downstairs? You can’t expect to walk from this courthouse today”.

“I don’t want to go to prison, but what can I do?” bleated the youth.

“Normal lads your age develop an interest in sports or girlfriends,” said the judge.

“Stealing to order is all he’s known since he was 14 years old,” said his solicitor, Mr Padraig QuInn.

“You were once in a classroom of 20 or 30 lads, yet 19 or 29 of them don’t commit crime. So don’t blame anyone but yourself. You are responsible for your own actions,” said the judge.

“The last time I met [the defendant] did I send him to prison?” asked the judge.

“Yes judge. You gave him six months detention, and a six month supervision order,” said the inspector.

The judge asked why the youth was not attending with the Welfare and Probation Service to fulfil this, and the boy said he couldn’t because he was “barred from Athlone”.

He told the court he had got a temporary release from his most recent period of detention on January 17, and the judge noted “the first [subsequent] offence was committed three days after”.

The inspector reminded the judge of another burglary in Willow Park on August 23 where the youth stole two laptops from the home of a sleeping 54-year-old male.

“A very effective burglar who seems not to disturb anyone, but he’s lucky not to get two barrels of a shotgun up the you-know-where,” noted the judge.

When he heard the youth had 82 previous convictions, including 51 for burglary, the judge turned to the defendant’s mother and asked her what she thought.

“I am actually disgusted with him. I’ve just heard the age of that man he robbed, and he’s nearly an old man,” said the mother.

“I take no pleasure in sending your son to prison, but the householders in Athlone deserve to be protected,” said the judge as he handed down three consecutive three-month sentences.

Holding out his hands in a balancing fashion, the judge addressed the boy.

“Think about this scale. €30 or €40 worth of cannabis in this hand, six months prison in this hand,” said the judge.

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