A man who brought a self-confessed member of a notorious Dublin gang to terrify his mother and stepfather has been jailed for five and a half years.
Darius McAteer appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co Donegal where he pleaded guilty to a range of charges during a terrifying experience just days before Christmas last year.
McAteer, along with accomplice Stephen Darby broke into the house at Admiran Park, Stranorlar on December 19th.
The pair, who have almost 150 previous convictions between them, broke into the home of Geraldine and Rory McGonagle at 1.45am and threatened the couple.
As well as threatening to burn down the house, they told Mr McGonagle that he would be shot in both knees.
McAteer had banged on his mother’s door saying that he had “brought the boys down from Dublin.”
When she answered Darby jumped from behind a hedge and the pair stormed the house.
Darby, a 46-year-old self-confessed former member of the notorious Westies gang, grappled with Mr McGonagle upstairs.
At one stage he has both of the terrified couple’s children, aged four and six, under his arm and was threatening to kill them.
During the invasion, Darby said he would petrol bomb the house with Mr and Mrs McGonagle and the children in it.
He was previously jailed by the same court for six years arising out of charges for the same incident.
The court was told that McAteer’s involvement had not been as severe as Darby’s but nevertheless, he had organised the attack on the household.
Evidence was given by Gardai at how McAteer was ‘gobbing away behind the co-accused’.
Both McAteer and Darby assaulted Mr McGonagle.
Gardai arrived and both were arrested.
McAteer pleaded guilty to all five counts before the court including burglary, threatening to kill or cause serious harm, and assault.
Citing the aggressive features of the incident, Judge John Aylmer said McAteer and the co-accused had undertaken a “forced and violent entry” into the McGonagle home in the small hours of the morning.
Significant violence had been involved along with the threat to kill and damage to the property.
Placing the burglary offence at the higher end of the scale, Judge Alymer said it would merit a nine-year prison sentence.
He referred to the joint enterprise that saw the co-accused, Stephen Darby, aided and abetted by McAteer who had been in a very intoxicated state on the night.
Darby, said the Judge, was a career criminal with a long record and a significant gangland background.
McAteer’s threat to kill charge merited a five-year sentence, the Judge indicated.
However, Judge Alymer referred to the early plea of guilty “albeit that he was caught red-handed” and accepted that he was remorseful and had taken steps in relation to his alcohol and drug addictions.
In his youth, McAteer had suffered from attention deficit disorder and had been involved in alcohol and drug abuse since the age of fifteen.
Judge Alymer also referred to the “very compassionate attitude” adopted by the injured parties, his mother and her husband.
“But I cannot ignore the appalling ordeal he has put them through.”
He reduced the sentence of nine years for burglary to one of seven a half years while also reducing the five year sentence on the threat to kill charge to one of four years. He took into consideration two counts of assault.
He suspended the final two years of the sentence on the burglary charge on condition that he enter a bond to keep the peace for two years and that he engage with psychiatric and probation services.
He ordered the accused to avail of any residential treatment provided by the services and to abstain completely from drugs and alcohol.
Defence counsel, Kelda Doherty, B.L., asked that the sentence be backdated to July 16th when the accused had entered a plea of guilty and Judge Alymer agreed.