Judge condemns city centre attempted robbery of tourists

The actions of a man and a woman who attempted to attempted to rob American tourists, with one courageous tourist being assaulted, have been condemned by a district court judge as it had been terrifying for the visitors and sullies the reputation of Galway as a welcoming city.

The comments were made by Judge Conal Gibbons after hearing the case of an American couple who were set upon as they walked down the tourist strip of Quay Street in the city.

At Galway District Court this week, Gort native David Grealish (36 ) with an address given as Fairgreen Hostel, Galway, and Mary Prendergast (28 ), originally from Mayo but now residing at Osterley Lodge, 140 Lower Salthill, Galway, pleaded guilty to charges of attempted robbery at Quay Street on August 22, 2011. Grealish also pleaded guilty to a further charge of assault at the same location and date.

Garda Caroline Hayes told the court that the tourists left the Front Door pub at 10.15pm after having dinner and were walking down Quay Street when they were approached by the two defendants outside Fat Freddies restaurant. As Prendergast tried to snatch the female tourist’s handbag she struggled and managed to hold on to it. The male tourist heard his girlfriend shouting about her purse being taken and when the defendants fled from the scene he ran after them up Druid’s Lane. When the tourist caught up with them Grealish suddenly turned and hit the pursuing man “with one box to the face”, a punch which drew blood. Garda Hayes added that at one point Grealish put his hand in his pocket and, not sure whether there was a weapon or not, the tourists fled and ran to a nearby restaurant to use a phone and call the gardai.

Gardai searched the area and Prendergast was identified in Eyre Square at 11.25pm and arrested, a short time later, at 11.55pm Grealish was also picked up. Garda Hayes said that when arrested both defendants had consumed a lot of alcohol and they could not be interviewed until the following morning.

Inspector Ernie White informed the court that Prendergast has a total of 12 previous convictions including a one month suspended sentence for threatening and abusive behaviour imposed in March of this year at Tuam District Court. There were also convictions for drink driving, various public order offences, and convictions for possession of drugs with intent to sell or supply for which she received a five year sentence, with the final four suspended, at Galway Circuit Court in October 2004. Grealish has a total of 27 previous convictions including public order offences in March 2011, and a fine and four months suspended sentence imposed in November 2010 for theft. Inspector White also informed the judge that the penalty for attempted robbery is a maximum of 12 months while for assault the maximum is six months. Referring to the suspended sentences Judge Gibbons noted that both defendants will have to be sent back to the court where the suspended sentences were imposed before sentencing for this latest offence can be carried out.

Defence solicitor Adrian MacLynn said that both Prendergast and Grealish wish to express their sincere remorse to the injured parties for their actions.

Addressing the two tourists in court Judge Gibbons said: “You were on holidays, and guests in our country are most welcome, but when confronted in that way it is less than a thousand welcomes. Galway prides itself on visitors and it’s troubling that this would happen on the city’s streets. The gardai must be commended for the very immediate and efficient way they went to the assistance of these unfortunate victims. It’s hugely reassuring that the gardai are quick to come to people’s aid. It’s reassuring for the people of this city and visitors.” Judge Gibbons added that he hoped this experience did not ruin the injured parties’ perception of Galway and the rest of Ireland.

One of the tourists stood up in court and told Judge Gibbons that he had been in Ireland four times and had never had any problems before. “I didn’t expect this to happen. I couldn’t let it go, I had to run after them. I hope you impose a proper sentence,” said the man, before adding that the incident does not change his view of Ireland.

After a short adjournment Judge Gibbons remanded Prendergast on her own bail of €200, no lodgement, to Tuam District Court on September 13 next to deal with the previous suspended sentence, and ordered her to appear at Galway District Court on September 26 to finalise matters. Grealish was remanded on his own bail of €200 to appear at Galway District Court on September 5 to deal with the previous suspended sentence, and was ordered to appear in court again on September 26 to finalise matters. Conditions imposed included to adhere to a curfew of between 9pm and 8am, not to consume alcohol or any controlled substances, and to stay away from Galway city centre except for the purposes of court, legal consultations, or social welfare purposes

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