A Longford man, with 140 previous convictions, was sentenced to spend a further seven months behind bars and disqualified from driving for 10 years for stealing a handbag and car keys from a nurse while being treated at UHG and taking off in the vehicle which was later stopped by eagle-eyed gardai in Kildare the following day.
While receiving treatment 30-year-old Michael O’Leary with an address at 2 St Matthew’s Park, Ballymahon, Co Longford, also invaded the privacy of another patient at the city hospital by entering her private room and taking property.
At Galway District Court on Monday, O’Leary pleaded guilty to entering room 501 at St Patrick’s Ward, UHG, as a trespasser and stealing a purse containing various bank cards and €10 in cash, entering the nurses’ office of St Pius Ward, UHG, as a trespasser and stealing a purse containing bank cards along with €40 cash, and car keys, and stealing another purse containing bank cards and €20 cash, and the unlawfully taking possession of a car at UHG on April 29, 2010.
Inspector Sean Glynn told the court that gardai on duty at Galway Garda Station received a complaint from a staff nurse at UHG that her car keys went missing from St Pius Ward at around 9pm. It was when she was searching the nurses’ office that she realised her purse was missing as well and went out to the staff car park to find that her vehicle had also been taken. The court also heard that the defendant had been in Castlerea Prison when he requested treatment in hospital and was later granted temporary release. While at the hospital O’Leary also entered the room of a female patient later that same evening and took her purse. During the investigation it was found that the defendant had brought the stolen purse into a toilet cubicle, rifled through it, leaving behind a Brown Thomas card which had his fingerprints. Gardai viewed CCTV which showed O’Leary entering the room.
“It’s incredible, he was brought to hospital for treatment and he goes and does this,” said a shocked Judge Mary Fahy.
Defence solicitor John Martyn said that his client had spent most of his childhood, from the age of seven, in care and that he had suffered abuse while placed with a family. Mr Martyn explained that from the age of 14 O’Leary had spent a lot of time in secure juvenile units moving onto incarceration from the age of 22 onwards. The court heard that it was while serving a sentence at Mountjoy Prison that O’Leary developed a chronic heroin addiction and began to self-harm. “He has been in and out of prison all his life,” said Mr Martyn, who added that the reason his client was brought to hospital on the date of the offence was because he had swallowed razor blades.
“I have some sympathy for him, because of his difficulty in the past, but I still find it very difficult to reconcile his attitude within the hospital. To steal off nurses who are working under severe restrictions and pressures, and while getting treatment he goes around the ward stealing,” replied Judge Fahy before noting that O’Leary’s “smart reply” to gardai was: “You’re a w**ker”.
Mr Martyn further explained that O’Leary, who is serving a sentence with a release date of May 5, has been receiving counselling while in custody. He then asked Judge Fahy not to add to this sentence.
“For anyone to go into a hospital, and to compound it while on temporary release, there is no other way to deal with it other than custodial sentence,” said Judge Fahy who then asked O’Leary if he had any sympathy for the nurse whose car was taken and the patient that was having treatment.
“Of course I do, two years ago I wasn’t in a good place,” replied O’Leary.
Inspector Glynn then told the court that the defendant has a total of 140 previous convictions, mostly for theft and unauthorised taking of a vehicle. O’Leary was sentenced to a total of seven months in jail, to be served on lawful termination of the sentence already being served, and disqualified 10 years. For burglary at St Pius Ward he received a seven month sentence and a 10 year disqualification, both to run concurrently. For burglary at St Patrick’s Ward O’Leary received an 11 month jail sentence, which was suspended for a period of four years on condition that he enter a bond of €500 to be of good behaviour and to stay away from Galway city and county. Leave to appeal was granted.