Limerick man jailed for extorting father and holding him captive

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

James O’Connor forced his father to withdraw funds from his post office and credit union accounts

James O’Connor forced his father to withdraw funds from his post office and credit union accounts

A LIMERICK man who falsely imprisoned his elderly father in a hotel in the midlands for several days has been sentenced to two and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

James O’Connor, aged 41, who has an address at Lord Edward Street, Limerick, also forced his father – Jim O’Connor – to withdraw more than €8,000 from his post office and credit union accounts in the city.

The pensioner, who is due to turn 81 next month, was reported missing on May 29, 2017, after members of his family expressed concerns to gardai that he was in the company of his son.

“They were concerned about his behaviour towards his father,” Detective Garda Brian Culbert told John O’Sullivan, BL, prosecuting during a sentencing hearing earlier this year.

A nationwide alert was issued and the pensioner was located, in a distressed state, near Portlaoise, a number of days later after gardai were alerted to reports that an elderly man was being held captive in a car.

When interviewed, Mr O’Connor said he had been held against his will by his son and that he had been put under pressure to withdraw monies from his credit union and post office accounts.

He said the defendant had also refused to let him speak with other members of his family while he was being held captive.

The defendant, who has a number of previous convictions, did not make any admissions following his arrest a number of days after his father was located.

Limerick Circuit Court was told James O’Connor moved to America almost 20 years ago and despite being legally married and running a business there he was deported in 2009.

Brian McInerney BL said his client has been unable to return to the United States since and he has been living a “chaotic lifestyle” since he returned to Ireland.

He said he was paying his way during his time in America as he was working as a painter/decorator and had his own home and van.

“It (his deportation) had a bad effect on him, effectively he has been living as a recluse,” he said, adding that O’Connor’s wife had “no interest” in moving to Ireland.

Detective Garda Culbert agreed the defendant has no trappings of wealth and that he has been living a “Walter Mitty existence” in recent times.

Judge Tom O’Donnell said a victim impact statement submitted to the court shows “enormous Christian empathy”.

In it Mr O’Connor Snr stated that what happened had “taken a toll on my mind and body”. He added however, that despite his ordeal his love for his son was “unwavering” and he hoped he gets the help he needs.

Imposing sentence, Judge Tom O’Donnell said the victim impact statement “reads like a cry for help for his son” and that what happened was an enormous breach of trust.

“This was elder abuse of the highest order, it involved control and determination at every turn,” he said.

While the defendant did not make admissions following his arrest, he said his guilty plea was significant and prevented a potentially difficult trial.

The judge noted that James O’Connor has had difficulties with drugs and alcohol abuse and that there has been a “spiral of chaos” since he returned to Ireland.

He accepted he is deeply remorseful and understands, in the cold light of day, the impact the offence has had on his father and his family dynamic.

He imposed a four year prison sentence, suspending the final 18 months. Mr O’Connor must remain under the “care, direction and supervision” of the Probation Service following his release from prison.