Man’ s sentence is increased for violent burglary
A VIOLENT burglar who broke into the rural home of a cancer-stricken woman and beat her husband with a hurl has had his prison sentence increased by the Court of Appeal.
Carl Freeman (23), of Rossfield Park, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at the home of William Crean (72) and Kathleen Crean (65) in a rural area about a mile outside Ashford Village, Co Wicklow, in the early hours of March 12, 2015.
He was sentenced at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court to seven years imprisonment, with the final three suspended, by Judge Michael O’Shea on July 26, 2017.
The Court of Appeal found Freeman’s sentence to be too lenient last Wednesday, October 3, on foot of an appeal brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was accordingly resentenced to ten years imprisonment, with the final four suspended.
Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Edwards said Mrs Crean had unfortunately been suffering from cancer and kidney failure for some time prior to the incident. Earlier that night, Mr Crean had locked up his house at around midnight and had gone to bed.
At around 3.30 a.m., the Crean’s dog started barking which prompted Mr Crean to go downstairs because, he explained, ‘I knew there was someone or something outside’. As he was downstairs, there was a bang, the kitchen door came in and three men entered each of them armed with a hurl.
Mr Crean retreated to the bedroom and tried to shut the door but it was pushed in on top of him. One of the men shouted ‘where is the money? We know you have money’ before drawing his hurl and hitting Mr Crean on the shoulder as hard as he could give it.
Mrs Crean described how one intruder told her to sit on the bed before grabbing her by the throat. He then grabbed both her hands and looked at her fingers to see whether she had any rings on. He held his hurl over her legs as if to hit her but Mr Crean pleaded with him ‘Don’t hit her. She’s not well.’
While Mr Crean was marched down the hallway, one of the raiders kept on at him about ‘money, guns, gold and silver’ but eventually the intruders left, having taken about €150 in cash. They ripped the landline out of the wall as they left and took Mr Crean’s mobile phone so the elderly couple were left with no way of contacting the gardaí. Mr Crean eventually walked to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm.
Garda Brian McCormack had just finished his shift in Tallaght Garda Station at 7 a.m. and was driving home when he observed an Audi A6 pull up beside him at traffic lights at Cheeverstown Road, in Tallaght. Gda McCormack took note of the car’s registration and recognised it as having been reported stolen the previous day. He further recognised the driver as Carl Freeman, who was known to him.
Gda McCormack began to follow the car and a chase ensued along the M7. Eventually the Audi was crashed and two occupants of the car, including Freeman, were arrested.
In victim impact statements, Mr Crean said ‘life has not been the same’ since the aggravated burglary.
‘Someone came into my home to beat us up… Life has totally gone the opposite way to what it was,’ he said.
Mrs Crean said she still wakes up at 3 a.m. every morning and could be awake for at least an hour.
‘ There is no way I will now stay in the house on my own. Since this happened, I don’t feel free anymore. I am like a prisoner in my own home. I say to myself “They will never come back” but you never know.’
The lady said she had to attend hospital recently and felt safer there than in her home. She did not wake at 3 a.m. in the hospital but ‘it’s back to waking at 3 o’clock in the morning’ when she returned home. ‘ That’s the time they were here.’
Freeman was 19 years old at the time of the violent burglary and 22 at the time of sentence. He had 62 previous convictions including 13 for crimes of dishonesty involving possession of housebreaking equipment, theft, burglaries, trespass and handling stolen property. He had two previous convictions for assault and a num-
ber for drug-possession related offences. In 2014, he was given a fully suspended two-and-a-half year sentence by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for burglary.
His parents split up when he was four years old and his older brother died in tragic circumstances. He had been a chronic drug addict but became drug-free in prison.
Mr Justice Edwards said there were numerous aggravating factors and only one significant mitigating factor, being Freeman’s serious addiction to drugs which led him ‘ to resort to crime as his principle means’ of feeding his habit.
The aggravating factors included the ransacking of the home, confrontation with the occupier, the use of violence, infliction of injury and the fact the violent burglary was carried out at night and in numbers.
Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Hedigan, resentenced Freeman to ten years imprisonment with the final four suspended.