County Limerick man in court following drug-fuelled rampage

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

A MAN who was responsible for a dangerous rampage through a West Limerick village last month in which he assaulted two gardai, stole a van and tried to break into a house with a shovel was “off his head” with drugs but wanted to visit a friend in prison, a court has heard.

A MAN who was responsible for a dangerous rampage through a West Limerick village last month in which he assaulted two gardai, stole a van and tried to break into a house with a shovel was “off his head” with drugs but wanted to visit a friend in prison, a court has heard.

Billy Heaphy, 25, of Dirha West, Listowel has been jailed after pleading guilty to theft, dangerous driving and assault charges arising from the incident in Glin on July 5.

Judge Mary O’Halloran heard at Newcastle West court last Thursday that Heaphy originally stole a van because he wanted to go and visit a friend in Limerick prison, but that events quickly got out of control.

Supt Dan Flavin said that at 11.30am Heaphy stole the van from Main Street, Glin and the “drove off dangerously at speed” down through the village. There was €500 in cash and a Nokia mobile phone in the vehicle, which he also took.

Heaphy then drove to a house at Killeaneymore, Glin where he got out and “attempted to gain entry” to the house with a stolen shovel, Supt Flavin added. Heaphy then left the scene and attempted to break into another home, where he was caught and arrested.

Supt Flavin said that gardai then sought to bring Heaphy into the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle for treatment, but on arriving there he assaulted two gardai “by hitting them on the head”. Supt Flavin said that while the Nokia was recovered, the €500 in cash was not.

The court heard that Heaphy has a total of 39 previous convictions, the most serious of which was an 18 month prison sentence handed down at Tralee Circuit Court in April 2010 for attempted robbery.

In Nov-ember 2010 he was jailed for four months for theft, while in 2009 he was sentenced to two months in prison for possession of a forged prescription. Heaphy was also handed a four-year driving ban in 2010 for careless driving and drunk driving.

Solicitor Pat Enright, defending, said that Heaphy is a man from “a very decent family” who has had problems with drugs, particularly “prescription tablets”, since his teens.

Mr Enright said that Heaphy was in Glin and was “trying to get to prison to meet a friend” when he stole the van. Mr Enright said that despite his client’s driving, he did not cause an accident or a collision.

“The danger stemmed more from the fact that he was off his head”, Mr Enright added.

Mr Enright said that after arresting him, the gardai recognised that Heaphy was “clearly distressed” by the effect of the drugs, which was why they sought to have him hospitalised.

When he assaulted the two gardai, Mr Enright said, Heaphy “did not know what he was doing”.

The defendant was described in court as a “slight young man” who is “not at all well”, and has been in custody since these offences took place.

Mr Enright said that Heaphy has been “through the mill in prison” and was “very apologetic for his behaviour”.

While in prison he had attempted to access a drug treatment programme, but this was “unavailable to him”, and when he was released he still had a drug problem.

Judge Mary O’Halloran sentenced Heaphy to a total of eight months in prison for the theft of the van and phone, and handed him concurrent sentences for burglary and the assaults on the two gardai.

He was also disqualified from driving for two years for dangerous driving.