Arsonist who caused €130,000 of damage to be sentenced

June 28, 2023

A man who is charged with causing €130,000 to a house in an arson attack has been given ‘one last chance’ after breaching his bail conditions.

Glen Friel, a 23-year-old whose address is given as ‘no fixed’ abode, was arrested on Monday and brought before Tuesday’s sitting of Letterkenny Circuit Court, where a bail application on his behalf was made.

The court heard that Friel has committed four offences, including another arson, since the incident at Straleeny, Killybegs on April 22, 2020. Friel has pleaded guilty to that offence.

In objecting to bail, Gardai informed the court that Friel has not signed on at a Garda station since despite being due to do so twice a week.

Ten previous bench warrants have been in existence and he has been charged with four offenses – criminal damage, namely arson; two public order offenses; and one for failing to appear at court – since this incident.

The court was informed that Friel has two previous convictions for failing to appear. Friel was arrested on Bridge Street, Donegal Town at 1.30pm on Monday on foot of a bench warrant.

Gardai objected to bail due to the seriousness of the offence, the fact that he had committed four offences while on bail, that he has not been complying with bail and his history of non-compliance.

Mr Peter Nolan BL, barrister for Friel, said his client suffers from a mental health illness and is undergoing treatment.

Mr Nolan said Friel has been living and working in Letterkenny and is dealing with his problems ‘as best as he can’. Mr Nolan said Friel does not know his parents and lives with his brother who was described as being ‘supportive’.

Mr Nolan said Friel had previously been granted bail by the District Court. “Prison would be absolutely disastrous,” Mr Nolan said.

Friel took to the witness box and said he hadn’t appeared at court on two dates in December 2022 as he ‘wasn’t well’. He told the court that he hasn’t worked since last year. Friel said he was unaware that he2 was due to sign on and told Judge John Aylmer that he was prepared to abide by conditions set by the court.

Mr Nolan asked the court to be as lenient as possible and said stringent conditions could be imposed.

Judge Aylmer noted that Friel ‘wasn’t hiding from Gardai’ and has a ‘very significant history of mental health issues’.

“I will give him one last chance,” Judge Aylmer said. “I will give him the benefit of doubt, but the court is very concerned.”

Friel was ordered to abstain from alcohol and unprescribed drugs and must sign on daily at an agreed Garda station. Friel is not to apply for a passport and warned that bail will be revoked if he commits another offence.

The matter was adjourned until the December sitting of Donegal Circuit Court when Friel will be sentenced.