A 55 years-old Dublin man who stole nearly €7,000 from Ballingarry's Presentation Secondary School received a five-year jail sentence for burglary at Clonmel Circuit Court with the final year of the sentence suspended.
Father-of-six Bernard McDonagh of 5 Deansrath Park, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 received this sentence after he pleaded guilty at the latest session of the court to burgling the school on January 27 last year.
The court heard gardai established McDonagh was the culprit through DNA analysis of blood found on the window through which the burglar entered the school.
Garda Louise Lordan said gardai received a call to go to the Presentation Secondary School in Ballingarry on January 28 last year where a burglary had taken place.
Cash amounting to €6941.16 was stolen and damage was caused to school property.
When they arrived at the school, they saw the burglar had gained entry through a window.
A forensic examination was carried out. Blood found on the window was analysed and the DNA matched that of Bernard McDonagh.
Garda Lordan said McDonagh was arrested in September last year on suspicion of burglary and brought to Thurles Garda Station and interviewed by gardai on two occasions.
CCTV footage from the school was shown to him and gardai identified him as the man in the footage.
The garda outlined that McDonagh had 59 previous convictions ranging from burglary and entering a building with intent to commit an offence to criminal damage, theft, public order, road traffic offences and possession of drugs.
When asked if any of the money stolen from the Presentation Secondary School was paid back, Garda Lordan replied that she received €2,000 that morning from the defendant.
McDonagh's defence barrister pointed out the school was unoccupied when his client broke into it during the night.
He said his client was married 32 years and his wife and eldest child had accompanied him to the court hearing.
He was not in the best of health as he suffered from type 2 diabetes and depression.
McDonagh also had a long history of alcohol addiction but was currently going through a period of sobriety and attending AA.
He was also attending counselling for a cocaine addiction. These were all factors that led to his offending.
The barrister contended that the CCTV evidence against his client was weak while the DNA evidence was open to challenge so his plea of guilty was very valuable.
He submitted that the compensation his client brought to court was "considerable" in view of his ill health and circumstances.
The barrister also said his client requested him to express to the court his sincere apology.
He regretted any disruption caused to the school.
Judge Teehan said the considerable amount of money stolen from the school and the considerable damage caused in the school when McDonagh ransacked it were aggravating factors in this case.
He was well aware that all schools, including the Presentation in Ballingarry, found it difficult to square the circle when it comes to finances.
Another aggravating factor was the number of McDonagh's previous convictions including many quite serious offences and relatively recent burglaries.
Judge Teehan considered this burglary was at the top of the range of such offences, which carried a maximum sentence of 14 years reflecting society's abhorrence for this crime.
While McDonagh made no admissions to gardai when questioned, he did plead guilty at an early stage.
He considered his apology to be genuine but noted it would have carried more weight if it was made earlier.
The Judge said McDonagh's difficulties have been exacerbated by his alcohol and cocaine addictions and he noted he has taken some important steps to rehabilitate himself.
"He is a family man with some family support here with him today but he can't escape a prison sentence.
“I consider the appropriate sentence for this offence is five years in prison and having regard to the mitigating factors, I will suspend the last 12 months on him entering into a bond to keep the peace for two years."
Judge Teehan directed Mr McDonagh not to ingest alcohol or drugs during the two year period of the sentence suspension.