A convicted burglar who looted a shop during “Storm Emma” in 2018 will not face extra jail time despite the Court of Appeal finding that his original sentence was unduly lenient.
The Court of Appeal indicated on Monday that, having read positive probation reports regarding David Berney, they would increase the suspended portion of his sentence rather than send him to prison. Berney, of Suncroft Park, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty in 2018 to burglary at a Centra store in Jobstown, Tallaght on March 2, 2018.
During a sentence hearing at the Circuit Court lawyers 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,” Eoin Lawlor BL, defending, told Judge Cormac Quinn.
He was on bail at the time awaiting prosecution for a burglary of a private home at Rocklodge, Stepaside on December 3, 2014 and has since pleaded guilty to that offence. 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.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy at the Court of Appeal on Monday said the sentence for the looting offence was unduly lenient given that Berney was on bail for a similar offence at the time and had a previous conviction for burglary.
But, she added, his progress has been good, he has a favourable probation report and has begun a new job. Therefore, she said the court would "mark the seriousness of the offence" by imposing a suspended sentence on certain conditions.
Berney, who could not attend court today because he is beginning an apprenticeship as a plumber, will be sentenced at a later date.
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.