Man jailed for attacking his elderly neighbur during a burglary while on bail for a series of failed robberiesPadraig Conlon 10 May 2022
By Sonya McLean
A man who attacked his 73-year old next-door neighbour during a burglary while on bail for a series of failed robberies has been sentenced to seven and half years.
Alan Downey (40) carried out the “shameful, horrible, cowardly offence” along with another man, gaining entry to the house after the victim recognised him.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Downey was on bail for three attempted robberies at the time of the offence.
Downey of Colepark Road, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary on his own road on November 20, 2020.
He has 40 previous convictions, including convictions for assault causing harm, theft and possession of knives.
Judge Melanie Greally imposed consecutive sentences totalling seven and half years.
She suspended the final 22 months of the sentence on strict conditions including that Downey engage with the Probation Service for 18 months and keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years.
Judge Greally accepted that Downey was now motivated to address his drug difficulties, having positively engaged with drug rehabilitation in the past.
She accepted that he has “repeatedly” offered sincere apologies for his actions, came from a respectable background and continues to enjoy family support.
She acknowledged his poor mental health and a number of “favourable” reports before the court.
Garda Erica Delaney told Siobhán Ní Chualacháin BL, prosecuting, that on the night in question, a then 73-year old man was asleep in his home where he lived alone and had lived for his entire life.
Gda Delaney said the man was woken by knocking on his front door and, recognising the accused man as his next-door neighbour, opened the door allowing Downey and another man to push their way into the house.
The two men demanded money and said they were looking for €6,000.
Downey was armed with a screwdriver, while the other man had a knife.
While the men ransacked the house looking for money, the victim was dragged around by his hair and was afraid the men would kill him.
He later told his sister that they had broken his walking stick over his back.
The victim rang his sister after the men left, terrified that they would come back.
His sister travelled to the house and saw Downey outside.
She found the victim inside the house retching, vomiting and hyperventilating.
She was able to tell that money she had given her brother for his shopping had been taken, as well as a couple of ornaments.
Downey was arrested by gardaí, but engaged in a “dirty protest” in the station just prior to gardaí interviewing him by smearing himself with faeces.
In interview with gardaí following a shower, Downey asked if the victim was alright and said he would apologise to him if he was there now.
When told the victim was in hospital and was “very very scared”, the accused replied he knew how that felt.
Downey told gardaí drink and drugs had him “all messed up”, but admitted his participation in the burglary.
He said he did not know he had a weapon, did not know why he had brought it and would not have used it.
Gda Delaney confirmed that Downey was on bail for three attempted robberies committed in April and May of 2020 at the time of this offence.
The garda agreed with Dean Kelly SC, defending, that this was a “shameful, horrible, cowardly offence” which requires a custodial sentence.
She agreed that despite the seriousness of the offence, there was some good to Downey.
She agreed with counsel that his client presents as a “reasonably pathetic” individual, saying her impression was that he attracts those who might use people for their own ends.
She agreed Downey is genuinely shameful and disgusted with what he has done.
Mr Kelly told the court that this was an awful offence that offended against a fundamental sense of decency.
Counsel said his client told him that towards the end of 2019, a childhood friend came back into his life who reintroduced him to drugs, eventually leading to his addiction to crack cocaine.
Mr Kelly asked the court to consider factors which demonstrate his client is a person very far from his behaviour in November 2020 and is not beyond redemption, including his psychological vulnerabilities, his genuine shame, his once having been essentially drug free for over a decade and his strong family support.
Counsel said his client wished to apologise to the court and to his victims.
Downey also pleaded guilty to attempted robberies at Spar, Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, and at Far East Restaurant, Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, both on April 19, 2020.
He further pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, production of a knife and two counts of assault causing harm at Londis, Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, on May 24, 2020.
Detective Garda Michael Noone told Ms Ní Chúalacháin that in April 2020, Downey tried to rob the Spar, coming up to the till area and shouting at a shop assistant.
A security guard initially closed the shutters so that the accused was locked inside the shop, before allowing him to leave under instructions from the manager.
Downey was identified by gardaí after they obtained CCTV footage of the incident.
Det Gda Noone said that later on the same day, he went to a nearby restaurant and threatened people working behind the counter.
He told them to open the till or he would stab them, then produced a fork.
People working in the kitchen came out and apprehended the accused.
Gardaí who had been investigating the previous attempted robbery arrived to arrest Downey, who was interviewed and later released on bail.
Det Gda Noone said that in May 2020, a shop assistant in the Londis recognised Downey as a regular customer and approached him as he was taking five or six bottles of wine.
The shop assistant tried to stop him and he dropped the bottles.
While he was being escorted out of the shop by several shop assistants, Downey produced a knife and swung it, cutting the neck of one the assistants.
Before leaving the shop, Downey threatened he would come back and kill them.
Downey was identified by gardaí on CCTV footage and was arrested, before again being released on bail.