Stealing heating oil from a community resource centre was ‘taking from his own’ a judge has told a man as he convicted him of theft at a special sitting of Cashel District Court.
Before the court was Johnny Reilly, 2 Aubrey Road, Glengoole, Thurles, who had denied a charge of stealing kerosene heating oil from Glengoole Resource Centre.
However following evidence Reilly was convicted of the charge by Judge Terence Finn. He escaped a jail sentence.
Evidence was given in court by two brothers who were visiting their father in Glengoole and observed the theft from the home.
Justin Norton told the court that on November 12 last he was upstairs in his father’s house when he looked out a window and saw two people crossing the field behind the house. They were carrying a green, five gallon drum. They were dressed in tracksuits and hoodies with the hoods up.
Mr Norton said the two people proceeded to the boundary of the field with the resource centre where they put down the drum. They looked over the fence into the resource centre and after a while went back for the drum. It was at that stage Mr Norton realised they were “going for the oil tank.” He called his brother, who was downstairs, and rang the gardaí.
Mr Norton and his brother both then observed the two men in hoodies ‘loitering at the tank’ before they came back over the fence and left, carrying the green drum, which now appeared to be full.
The men crossed the field to the far ditch where they left down the drum and climbed out on to the roadway.
Mr Norton and his brother got into their own car and drove up the road towards Ballingarry village to see if they could see what vehicle the other men were using. He said they saw a silver Volkswagen people carrier driving towards them and he used his phone to record the vehicle as it drove past them, getting a clear view of the number plate. He recognised the men in the car. He said he thought the car had been parked further up the road in a farmer’s access road.
Mr Norton said he could not make out the faces of the two men but gave clear descriptions of the hoodies they wore - one was dressed in a white or grey hoodie and dark tracksuit pants with a stripe down the side, while the other was also wearing tracksuit bottoms and a dark hoodie with a grey hood and multicoloured top. He said the man with the darker hoodie had carried the drum.
Alan Norton said he joined his brother in observing the two men at his father’s home. He used his dad’s binoculars to watch them. He confirmed his brother’s evidence. Mr Norton said he took a video of what was happening on his phone.
When the two men in hoodies went out onto the road he drove his car, with Justin Norton in the passenger seat, drove after them. Alan Norton confirmed the two men in hoodies were in the car, the man in the darker hoodie was driving.
Mr Norton said that after he had passed the silver car he observed it in his rear view mirror stopping at the side of the ditch where the green drum had been left.
After this the Nortons drove back to Glengoole village where they met Garda Kieran Tobin and gave him the video and photos they had taken.
Garda Tobin told the court he responded to a call about the theft at 13.25pm on November 12 last while he was on mobile patrol. He went straight to the resource centre. He saw no vehicle but met the Norton brothers.
A short time later, at 2.05pm, Garda Tobin was driving on the Bog Road when he met a car matching the description the men had given him and with the same registration as the car in the video.
He activated the lights on the garda car to indicate to them to pull over, which they did.
Garda Tobin spoke to the female driver. He recognised John Reilly who was the front seat passenger. The garda observed that he clothing he was wearing matched the description given to him by the Nortons and in the video - a dark hoodie with a grey hood.
Garda Tobin said he also noticed a strong smell of fuel from the vehicle.
A back seat passenger was another man who matched the description of the second man in the video and seen by the Nortons.
Reilly was arrested and taken to Thurles garda station where he was interviewed and later charged with the theft of the kerosene.
Before going to the station Garda Tobin searched the vehicle and found a green five-gallon drum matching the one in the video. It was empty.
The drum and hoodies were produced in court as evidence.
Manager of the Glengoole Resource Centre, Clare Cashin, gave evidence in court that the centre is heated by kerosene oil burners and keeping the centre at an appropriate temperature is important as it hosts children and elderly groups.
An application by defence solicitor Aidan Leahy that no evidence had been given to say the liquid in the drum was kerosene, and other legal technicalities, were rejected by Judge FInn saying Reilly had a case to answer.
Mr Leahy then said he would not be offering any defence in the case.
Judge Finn proceeded to convict Reilly of theft. He heard the defendant had two previous convictions for road traffic matters.
Mr Leahy said his client is a young man and lives with his partner.
Judge Finn said that Reilly had taken a product that was being used to heat a community resource centre, a community where he was resident at the time. “He was taking from his own - the court forms a very poor view of that.”
Mr Leahy said Reilly had €100 in court with him and if given time would “top that up.”
Judge Finn said he required compensation to be paid. He adjourned the case to allow preparations to be made for this and also to consider a Community Service order so Reilly could ‘give back to the community.’
Judge Finn also suggested that Reilly might want to offer some expression of regret to Ms Cashin.
The case was adjourned for sentencing to last Thursday's court, February 22, in Cashel.
A Probation Service report was made available at last Thursday’s Cashel District Court.
Judge Finn said Reilly had been found suitable for Community Service and so he ordered him to carry out 150 hours of Community Service in lieu of a sentence of three months imprisonment.