A man who terrorised a 69 year old farmer with a knife in his own home has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Gerard Barry (30), with an address at Glenbaun, Ballybane, was sentenced for aggravated burglary before Judge Brian O’Callaghan this week, after entering a plea last summer.
The court heard of harrowing events, where Barry held a knife to the throat of a 69 year old man, and chased him through his home demanding money, while continuing to menace him with the knife.
Detective Garda Ronan Leonard gave evidence to the court that on the evening of August 3 of last year, then 69 year old Kevin O’Donoghue was relaxing in his house after a day at work on the family farm outside of Athenry.
Around 8pm that evening, he was sitting and watching television, with the back door to the kitchen left open as it was a hot summer evening.
Just a short while ago his wife had gone out for a walk to their neighbours, when he felt a knife pressed to his throat.
The knife in question was a bread knife with a roughly nine inch blade, which Barry had taken from the kitchen after entering through the open door.
O’Donoghue got to his feet, before Barry lunged at him with the knife, the court heard, saying that, “I’ll fucking stab you”.
The victim tried to grab a chair to defend himself, but it was pulled away from him by Barry, who demanded money.
He pointed Barry to a small amount of cash on the counter, saying that it was all he had.
Barry then shoved O’Donoghue into the hall of the house, when he fled into the office and shut the door behind him.
He tried to hold the doorknob shut, but let go in fear after Barry kicked out a glass panel in the door. Garda Leonard said that particles of glass were later found on Barry’s tracksuit and socks.
Barry took a small amount of cash that was in the office, and brought the two of them into a guest bedroom. There he began pulling drawers out of a locker, and demanding to know where the safe was.
All this time Barry still had possession of the knife, and was making stabbing motions, while demanding money Garda Leonard said.
Mr O’Donoghue grabbed one of the drawers to try and protect himself, backing towards the kitchen area once again.
He later told Gardaí that he thought of hitting Barry with the drawer, but was afraid that he would be stabbed if Barry didn’t go down.
Barry kicked the drawer out of his hands, knocking over a clothes horse. O’Donoghue used the distraction to flee out the front door of the house, and call his wife while hiding in a nearby wooded area.
They drove to his mother-in-law’s house nearby, and waited until they saw Gardaí arriving at their farm.
He gave a description of the clothes Barry was wearing, which included a hoodie and a something pulled up over his face, and Gardaí were also able to get footage from cctv cameras around the property.
On the cameras he was seen fleeing to the rear of the property, and throwing something over the fence before fleeing through a neighbouring field. Gardaí later recovered the knife from there.
Around 9pm that night, more Gardaí in a patrol car who were responding to the call saw a man matching the reported description appear at the side of the motorway, near the Athenry junction.
He was soaking wet on a dry summer night, and Garda Leonard said that Barry crossed a shallow river near the property while fleeing.
As part of the plea, Gerard Barry also pleaded guilty to assaulting Garda Brendan Owens after being arrested that night.
The court heard that after being arrested on the motorway, Barry became extremely abusive while detained at Murrough Divisional HQ.
He tried to spit at one officer, the court heard, and kicked another. It was several hours before he could be interviewed, as he was intoxicated at the time.
The injured party did not wish to attend court, but gave a written impact statement which was read out by Det Garda Leonard.
In it, he said that he had lived in that house his entire life, and was used to leaving the door open, but that he is now ‘hyper-vigilant’, and is still afraid to go out and close the gate on the laneway at night.
“I can’t describe the fear I felt as Gerard Barry chased me around my own home with a large knife,” he wrote, adding that he believed he was going to die.
“That experience in my own home is forever carved into my brain,” Mr O’Donoghue’s statement said.
He was unable to sleep for months afterwards, he said, and believes that the stress contributed to serious health issues he has had.
Mr Barry’s barrister said that his client had written an apology to both the victim and gardaí, and that he had been instructed to reiterate that.
He said that his his client had a history of addiction issued, but that he has been trying to address them since going into custody in 2021.
He asked the judge to leave his client some light at the end of the tunnel, adding that Mr Barry is coming to a point where he will have to decide what route he wants the rest of his life to take.
The court heard that Gerard Barry had 52 previous convictions, including multiple for burglary, along with extortion/blackmail, multiple thefts, dangerous driving causing serious harm, and more.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan said that though Donovan had pleaded to aggravated burglary, he would be proceeding with sentencing on the basis that it was a burglary, with the knife acquired after Barry was in the house.
The judge said that behaviour like this has killed off the open back door, which used to be common in rural areas.
“You clearly targeted this family home, this private residence. You challenged on more than one occasion, a man approaching 70”.
“You used continued violent, threatening conduct. You put that victim in fear for his life,” Judge O’Callaghan.
In mitigation, he took into consideration Gerard Barry’s youth, remorse, addiction issues, and a plea indicated very early.
The judge set the headline sentence at 11 years for the aggravated burglary, and reduced it to 9 years taking mitigating factors into account.
The judge suspended the final 18 months of this sentence, and backdated it to October of last year, the time since he has been in custody solely on this matter.
The judge took the assault charge into consideration, saying that, while he did not want to disrespect the Garda, it just about fell within the same matrix of facts of the one incident.