Judge offers impassioned support for rural gardaí

A judge made an impassioned plea for the retention of rural Garda stations, after it was revealed a country garda foiled a burglary in a 93-year-old woman’s home by noticing a badly parked car.

“Garda Connolly is the last bastion between civil society and career criminals like Mr [Joseph] Toohey,” said Judge Seamus Hughes in the District Court in Athlone Wednesday (May 21 ).

He was speaking in the trial of Joseph Toohey (37 ) with an address in McCormack Drive, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, who had been the getaway driver for his two cousins on the night of January 16.

“The quite amazing thing about Garda Connolly is he takes an intimate interest in his area. He lives there, he goes to Mass there, he sees this car parked and thinks it’s out of place. He carries out an investigation, which leads to this [conviction]. I can’t think of a better example of why a rural station should be kept open,” said the judge.

He was referring to Garda Steven Connolly, the local garda in Glasson village, a few miles outside Athlone on the main N55 road to Longford.

Earlier, the court heard how, on the night in question, Garda Connolly had spotted a blue Mazda parked outside the house of the elderly lady and thought something awry.

When he approached it with his torch and noticed two men in the car, it sped off at him forcing him to jump out of the way.

He called for assistance from Athlone as the car had driven that way.

Detective Garda Niall Cogavin then told the court how he and Garda Frank Finn had to take evasive action to avoid the car speeding in the road on the wrong side, and that they apprehended all three following a chase through some gardens after Toohey turned into a cul de sac on the outskirts of the town.

His co-defendants - brothers John (20 ) and Joseph (22 ) Donoghue, originally from Templemore, but now living in a caravan on Blackberry Lane halting site in Athlone - were remanded on continuing bail until June 25 after they both changed their solicitors.

“The community is extremely fortunate to have gardaí like Garda Cogavin and Garda Finn. That’s like something you’d see on the TV,” said Judge Hughes.

His solicitor - Mr Robert Kelly - told the court Toohey was “remorseful” and “says he wouldn’t have got involved if he knew it was the house of a 93-year-old”.

“So he would’ve been less remorseful if it was the home of a 40-year-old woman? It just shows you the stupidity of your instructions,” said the judge.

“He threatened the life of three gardaí. He deserves a sentence in its own right,” said the judge, before adding nine months to the 14 months Toohey is presently serving for a raft of similar offences in Tipperary and Clare.

After hearing Toohey had spent a total of 12 years in jails here and the UK, and had previously been banned from driving for 30 years, Judge Hughes extended this ban to life, and fined him €500.

“You’re hammerin’ me here, judge... and you’ll not get €500 outta me. I’ll do the five days [in lieu],” sneered Toohey as he was led away.

“I already have your €500,” smiled the judge as he waved Toohey’s previous bail payment back at him.

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