Burglar who spat in Garda’s face after school break-in jailed for 16 months

December 3, 2023

A man who spat in a Garda Sergeant’s face after being caught red-handed breaking into a Co Donegal school has been jailed for 16 months.

Brendan O’Neill caused €6,668 to St Columba’s Secondary School in Stranorlar after he broke his way into the roof of the school.

The 34-year-old accused burrowed his way into the school by discarding slates and then breaking through a ceiling before getting into the main building.

O’Neill, who has 86 previous convictions, was caught when the principal arrived at the school and found the burglar on the premises.

Gardai were called and arrested the father-of-three who was taken to Letterkenny Garda Station to be interviewed.

When being processed, O’Neill spat in the face of Garda Sergeant Paul Forrestal.

O’Neill appeared at a special sitting of Letterkenny District Court where he pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, criminal damage and assault.

O’Neill, of College Avenue, in Mountmellick, Co Laois, is charged that on October 14, 2023 at St Columba’s College, Drumboe Avenue, Stranorlar, having entered a building known as St Columba’s College as a trespasser did commit an arrestable offence to wit criminal damage therein.

On the same date and local he is also charged that he did without lawful excuse damage property, to wit, roof slates, the roof, the internal plaster-board ceilings, internal attic firewalls, internal hallway ceilings belonging to St Columba’s College intending to damage such property or being reckless as whether such property would be damaged.

On October 15th, 2023, at Letterkenny Garda Station, he is also charged that he assaulted Garda Paul Forrestal.

The court heard that O’Neill had been jailed on a number of occasions after being found guilty of a range of offences including public order, assault, possession of an offensive weapon and criminal damage.

His solicitor, Mr Patsy Gallagher, said his client fully accepts his wrongdoing and on the night was on alcohol and a range of non-prescription drugs.

He added that the reason he broke into the school was because he was trying to flee a third party.

Mr Gallagher said O’Neill had not been as lucky as many and left school early saying “all he saw was drugs and a certain attitude towards authority.”

However, since this incident and going into custody he has been a model prisoner, claiming that prison officers say there is a “relaxed approach” towards O’Neill.

Mr Gallagher said his client was already in custody and had been since October 16th last.

He asked Judge Ciaran Liddy to consider doing two things for his client in order to give him some hope and these were to backdate his sentence and also to suspend part of it.

After considering the sentence, Judge Liddy sentenced O’Neill to a total of sixteen months in prison comprising of 10 months for burglary and six months for the assault of Sergeant Forrestal.

He backdated the sentence and also ordered the accused to attend the Probation Services when he is released from prison.