An 19 year-old Co. Tipperary youth has received an 8 year jail term with 6 years suspended for the terrifying ordeal he put another teenager through that included firing a shotgun that twice narrowly missed him, putting the gun to his head and telling him he was going to die and striking him with the gun barrel.
The defendant, who can't be named for legal reasons to protect the identity of underage witnesses, has also been ordered to pay €10,000 compensation over the next two years to the victim, who was 15 years old when the incident happened in rural South Tipperary on August 20, 2015.
He was sentenced at the final day of Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court's latest session.
Judge Tom Teehan said the sentence had to reflect the court's "abhorrence" of the defendant's actions and it should be eight years imprisionment for the false imprisonment of the youth.
To reflect the mitigating factors in the case, the Judge said he was prepared to suspend the last six years of the prison term on condition the defendant be of good behaviour and refrain from alcohol and illicit drugs during those six years. The offence of recklessly discharging a firearm was marked proven and taken into account.
The defendant was in custody in Limerick Prison for a month before the sentencing hearing after his bail was revoked because he breached the court's bail conditions to refrain from consuming alcohol and abide by a nightly curfew. Judge Teehan warned him that if he adopted a similar approach after his release from prison, he would serve a far greater period in custody.
The Judge directed the defendant pay €5000 compensation to the victim per year for the next two years and on his release from prison he must not approach the victim or his family unless at their express friendly invitation.
The evidence in the case was heard at Clonmel Circuit Court in March last year where the defendent pleaded guilty to both the false imprisonment and firearms offence. The garda sergeant, who outlined the evidence, said it was one of the most serious cases he had seen in his 28 year in the force and it was lucky no one was killed while Judge Teehan described it as one of the most "traumatic" cases he has dealt with.
The defendant was 17 years and four months old when the committed the offences. He returned home on the night of August 20 to find his 14 year-old sister was not in the house babysitting their siblings. When he discovered she was meeting with a group of youths and another girl in a field next to their home, he went outside with his father's shotgun and fired shots into the air.
The young people ran for cover and while the victim in this case was hiding in a bush, the defendant fired a shot that missed him by a foot. When the youth tried to seek refuge in the house, the defendant hit him with the butt of the gun, knocking him to the ground. When he got up, the defendant put the gun to his head and told him he was going to die. The defendant also took aim at the youth's knee but the defendant's 10 year-old brother grabbed the gun and the youth tried to run away but was again punched and struck again with the gun barrel. When the defendant let him leave the scene, he fired another shot that narrowly missed the youth.
Witness statements the gardai took established that between 10 and 17 shots were discharged during the incident. The defendant admitted firing between 10 and 15 shots.
At the sentencing hearing this month, the garda sergeant said he received a letter of apology dated January 8 from the defendant made out to the victim's mother. She informed him the apology was too late. The court was also told that the primary victim's family was not disposed to going down the road of participating in a restorative justice programme, which involves meetings through a trusted intermediary, between the victim and perpetrator.
The defendant went into the witness box and told Judge Teehan he was "totally in the wrong and he shouldn't have done what he did." He said he accepted the impact his behaviour had on the injured party and had thought a lot about it in prison.
"If I could take back what I did I would. I didn't mean to do it. I am sorry for what I did."
He appealed to Judge Teehan to give him a chance. "I screwed up. I know what I did was wrong. If you give me a chance I would appreciate it."
When asked why he hadn't saved compensation money for the victim since last March, the defendant said he found it hard to save. He had never been a good saver. He tried to get a loan but it was rejected.
Mr Cody asked him why he didn't comply with the conditions Judge Teehan set at the court hearing last March. He replied that he just didn't take the case seriously enough and agreed he hadn't appreciated the consequences of his actions.
Having spent four weeks in prison, he said he now realised what he took for granted "on the outside".
Defence counsel Colman Cody submitted there was a marked contrast between his client's attitude and demeanour at this court hearing compared to last March.
"It's fair to say, particularly because of his prison experience, that he is a very chastened young man, who knows what he is facing. "
Mr Cody said his client now had a real appreciation of what he had done and the impact on the victim and his family and urged Judge Teehan to give him a chance, albeit subject to stringent conditions.
The senior counsel had earlier acknowledged it was fair to say the court was "deeply unimpressed" by his client's attitude at the court hearing last March. In fairness, his client admitted to the offence and gave an explanation for his behaviour. The concern was that he had not sufficiently appreciated the gravity or consequences of his actions. The Probation Report, which was quite favourable to his client, did remark that he had insufficent insight or awareness of the consequences of what he had done.
There didn't seem to be any underlying psychological or psychiatric issues but he was an immature young man for his age, which explained why he hadn't engaged in fully confronting what he had done. It had been recommended that he undergo therapy and he had certain anger management issues.
Mr Cody recounted that his client was away in France working during the summer of 2015 and while he was over there was led to believe that his sister was socialising with "undesirable elements".
Judge Teehan responded that at the previous court hearing there was no suggestion that the "unfortunate victim" was responsible for that.
Mr Cody continued that his client became "hardened in this view" and took it upon himself to take on the role of being guardian of his sister and in some misguided way felt it was necessary and appropriate to protect his sister by getting out his father's shotgun. Fortunately serious injuries were not sustained.
The barrister pointed out his client wrote letters of apology to four juveniles and the owner of the field. Two of the letters, including the one from the field owner, were accepted.
A reference letter from the defendant's former employer was presented to the court. Mr Cody said his client instructed him that a job will be available to him when he is released from jail.
Mr Cody said it was an unusual case, the offences were serious and the circumstances as described by the injured party and members of the defendant's own family made for distressing and upsetting reading. It was particularly distressing that it was witnessed by his siblings who tried to stop him.
He pointed out that what was unusual was that prior to this incident, his client hadn't any previous convictions and came from a very solid and respectable family background. He had all the benefits of a very good upbringing.