By Stephen Bourke & Fiachra Gallagher
A man has been jailed for seven years for the armed robbery of a Dublin bank four years ago.
Dermot O’Callaghan (55), with an address at Seagull House flats in Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin 8, pleaded guilty under Section 27B of the Firearms Act to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to rob Ulster Bank in Stillorgan, on September 26, 2017.
O’Callaghan is already serving an eight year sentence for robbery and carrying firearms, which is due to run until 2024.
He has 22 previous convictions, including convictions for armed robbery, burglary, firearms possession, and false imprisonment.
At a previous sentencing hearing in May, Dublin Circuit Court heard a bank worker was stepping out the door of the Stillorgan branch for his lunch break on the day of the robbery when a gun was pressed into his chest.
He was pushed back into the branch by two men, who ordered the customers inside to drop to the floor and told the women staffing the cash desk: “Give me the money or I’ll shoot.”
The court heard that a female bank teller was so terrified that she froze up, and a colleague had to help her bag the money.
The men made off with €13,200 in cash and another £800 sterling. As they left, one of the men told the victims: “Have a nice day.”
Detective Garda David L’Estrange described how the men were recorded on CCTV running away to a black Fiat Punto, which drove the wrong way up the street as they made their escape.
Det Gda L’Estrange told Garett McCormack BL, prosecuting, of searching a flat at Seagull House, where he found O’Callaghan there along with his co-accused.
The second man was asleep in a spare bedroom, where two weapons were found under the bed – one of them a replica pistol, he said.
The three bank staff present on the day of the robbery gave victim impact statements.
One staff member, who still works at the same branch, said: “To have a gun pointed at you is terrifying, and to have the man so close — I wondered what would happen if it went off,” he said.
Another was told she would be shot if she didn’t hand over the cash, and believed it.
She says the ordeal brought on a series of panic attacks – something she had never experienced before.
“I was too afraid to leave my home for weeks. I was always afraid they would see me in the street. She has been unable to return to work at a cash desk.
“I’m constantly nervous when people come into the branch. When I see a child with a toy gun or on TV I get extremely nervous,” she said.
Her colleague said she was still able to continue in the same work, but she gets nervous about working alone in the bank.
“I suffer a lot of sleepless nights,” she said, and said facing the accused men in court was a “scary experience”.
“I kept saying to myself ‘please don’t look them in the eye.’”
Paul Carroll SC, defending, said his client got addicted to heroin in his late teens and that led to his first serious convictions in the late 1980s.
Although he is on an “enhanced regime”, counsel said O’Callaghan’s “prison disciplinary matters” are “not that extreme”.
O’Callaghan’s most recent urine samples were clear apart from traces of the methadone he is prescribed.
“He is a man who is getting on and at his age that continuing cycle of offending would have to stop,” Mr Carroll said.
Counsel said any sentence would have to be on top of the eight years O’Callaghan is already serving – and so could not begin until 2024.
“All I can do is ask the court to leave Mr O’Callaghan a way to move forward in his life,” he said.
“There doesn’t seem to be any remorse or anything of that nature for the unfortunate people who were in the bank,” Judge Pauline Codd said at the earlier hearing.
Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Codd noted that while the accused man did not brandish the imitation device during the robbery, he was “aggressive” and stoked fear, aggravating the offence.
She noted mitigating factors, including his guilty plea, his addiction to heroin and his personal circumstances.
Judge Codd sentenced O’Callaghan to eight years imprisonment, with the final year suspended. The sentence will be served consecutive to his current jail term, due to expire in February 2024.
< ends > © CCC.nuacht Teoranta 2021