‘Romeo’ jailed after smashing windows at Letterkenny property

February 5, 2023

A man who became embroiled in a row with his girlfriend’s family has been jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of smashing a number of windows at their home.

William Reilly appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court, where his barrister likened his case to Romeo and Juliet.

The accused was before the court on a charge of criminal damage at Canal Road Halting Site.

After being handed down the sentence, Reilly pleaded with Judge John Aylmer not to jail him, insisting that he had turned his life around.

Reilly initially contested the case but, two days into a trial last July, changed his plea on a charge of criminal damage to one of guilty.

Garda Paddy McDermott said reports of criminal damage and possession of articles, dangerous implements, at Canal Road halting site were made on March 21, 2019.

Garda McDermott told the court that tensions rose when Reilly became involved in a relationships with Pearl Connors.

On arrival at the scene, Gardai observed that panes of glass and a door of a property were damaged. Panes of glass on a caravan, located at an adjacent property, were also damaged.

A co-accused, John Paul Reilly, previously was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, Counsel for the State, Ms Patricia McLaughlin BL, said.

CCTV was downloaded from a system located at another property in the vicinity. Footage was played at the sentencing hearing. Witnesses in the case were not willing to co-operate, the court heard.

Reilly made no admissions in an interview with Gardai. Garda McDermott said that ‘to a large extent, they were no comment interviews’.

Barrister for Reilly, Mr Peter Nolan BL, said Reilly’s behaviour was ‘entirely unacceptable’.

Mr Nolan said that there was a ‘flashpoint’ when Reilly and Ms Connors became a couple.

“They are now living together and there is no difficulty whatsoever,” Mr Nolan said.

The property in question, Mr Nolan said, was a ‘drinking den’ and there was no-one living there at the time.

Mr Nolan told the court that Reilly was dealing with his difficulties, having completed a residential treatment and coming off drugs and alcohol.

“He acted impulsively, grabbed a metal object and smashed a window,” Mr Nolan said. “He seems to have settled down and matured remarkably. He has actually changed dramatically.”

Reilly was assessed by the Probation Service as being a moderate risk of reoffending. He has a limited work history and limited education, his barrister added.

Mr Nolan said: “Drug and alcohol addiction were at the root of the issues. There was a feud going on and this came to a head.

“It’s like the Montague and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet. Maybe the Connors and Reillys could be another Shakespeare play.”

Asking the court to be as lenient as it could, Mr Nolan said a ‘realisation has dawned’ for Reilly, who lives with Ms Connors and their young child.

Judge Aylmer said Reilly was before the court on a ‘very late’ guilty plea, which came two days into a trial.

The starting point when sentencing Reilly, who has 47 previous convictions, was three years imprisonment.

“He was involved in the violation of an occupied dwelling with the intention to intimidate the occupier.”

Judge Ayler said Reilly appeared to have taken ‘a very purposeful decision to rehabilitate himself’, which was the most significant mitigating factor.

The sentence was reduced to two and a half years in prison, with the final 12 months suspended upon Reilly entering into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months subsequent to his release

Reilly is also to be placed under the supervision of the Probation Service and was ordered to stay off alcohol and unprescribed drugs.

Before being taken away by prison officers, Reilly slammed the sentence as ‘absolutely ridiculous’.

He told the court “I have changed my whole life. I changed my life, coming from a place where I had nothing. I do that and I still get a year and a half.

“I see people do less than I have done and get community service.

“I have a clean slate and a fresh life. I was dragged into something and backed into a corner.”

Judge Aylmer told Reilly that he gave the matter ‘careful consideration’ and ‘noted the great strides taken’ but said to suspend the entire sentence ‘would be a step too far’.

Reilly told the court that he intended to appeal the sentence.