Man who set County Limerick hay barn on fire avoids jail

The hay barn at Copeswood Dairy Farm was completely destroyed in the fire

The hay barn at Copeswood Dairy Farm was completely destroyed in the fire

A MAN who caused more than €50,000 worth of damage after setting hay barn on fire in County Limerick has avoided a prison sentence.

Seamus McCarthy, aged 22, who has an address at Knocknasna, Abbeyfeale has pleaded guilty to a single charge of arson relating to an incident at Copeswood Dairy Farm, Shannon Grove Pallaskenry during the early hours of September 24, 2014.

The hay barn, which was located in the dairy yard at Pallaskenry Agricultural College, was completely destroyed in the blaze which was started at around 4am.

Garda Aidan Haddock said McCarthy, who has no previous convictions, made admissions in relation to the fire following his arrest sometime after the fire.

He said he told gardai he had been messing with a cigarette lighter and that he had panicked and returned to the dormitory when a bale of hay caught fire and “took off”.

The defendant, who was very drunk on the night,  told gardai he had gotten an idea to burn the hay shed but that he didn’t think it would blow up.

Judge Tom O’Donnell was told there was insurance in place and the shed has since been rebuilt.

Erin O’Hagan BL, instructed by solicitor John Lynch, said there was no risk of people being injured as a result of her client’s actions.

She said her client cooperated with gardai, made full admissions and identified himself on CCTV during garda interviews.

Ms O’Hagan said her client left the agricultural college a short time after the incident and that he hasn't’s returned to education since.

She said it was his first time away from home and that alcohol was a factor on the night.

“There was no malicious aspect to it, it was a foolish decision, it was a stupid, stupid thing to do,” she said describing what happened as a “showing off experiment that got completely out of hand”.

Imposing sentence Judge O’Donnell accepted what happened was not sinister and that the fire was due to the defendant’s recklessness. He imposed a three and-a-half year prison sentence which he suspended it in its entirety.

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