A convicted burglar who looted a shop during Storm Emma in 2018 will go to prison if he does not stay "on the straight and narrow", the Court of Appeal has warned.
David Berney (39), of Suncroft Park, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty in 2018 to burglary at a Centra store in Jobstown, Tallaght on March 2, 2018, during the heavy snow. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence which the Court of Appeal ruled in March last year was unduly lenient.
The court gave Berney time to show that he could rehabilitate and on Thursday Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said she was "gratified that he has progressed very well." She said the appropriate sentence is three years but in light of his successful efforts to rehabilitate the court would suspend the entire term for three years.
The suspension is subject to conditions, including that if he loses his job he must engage with probation services to find a new one. Ms Justice Kennedy backdated the sentence to November 2019.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Berney has the suspended sentence "hanging over his head." He added: "Having got himself on the straight and narrow he must stay there and if he lets matters slip he will be in a very serious situation."
At Berney's sentence hearing his barrister Eoin Lawlor BL said Berney was, like many people, reminded of his childhood by the heavy snowfall.
“But unlike others he was high on cocaine at the time,” counsel told Judge Cormac Quinn.
He was also on bail awaiting prosecution for a burglary of a private home at Rocklodge, Stepaside on December 3, 2014. He pleaded guilty to both offences and Judge Quinn imposed a two-year sentence for the 2014 burglary. He imposed a further 18 months for the looting incident but suspended this term on condition that he keep the peace and engage with addiction and social reintegration services. The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.
Detective Garda David Jennings told Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, that in March 2018 gardaí in Tallaght became aware of looting at the Centra store. At the time most shops had closed due to the severe weather warning.
He said because of the severe weather, officers travelled to the shop in an official jeep. They were forced to abandon the 4x4 before reaching the shop because the road was impassable with the snow and other abandoned vehicles.
He said there were around 20 people at the scene. A “con saw” had been used to cut a hole in the security shutters and people were running in and out of the shop.
People began shouting “garda garda” to alert others who were still inside the shop, but the shop's alarm was ringing so the shouts could not be heard from inside, Det Jennings said.
He said Berney had entered the shop about 90 seconds before gardaí arrived. While others were looting the shop, Berney and two other men had gone to the store room at the back of the shop.
Another man had a sledgehammer and used this to smash the store room door open, and the three then entered the cash room inside.