Man who helped rob tourists in Swords jailed for three years

‘Mean-spirited’ crime involved posing for photos while accomplices took belongings

A man who posed for tourists taking photographs in a town park as his accomplices robbed the group of their belongings has been jailed for three years.

Brian Clarke (31) was identified by gardaí from the photographs on the camera.

US tourist Ryan Dillon pursued the robbers but was surrounded by a group of youths who punched and kicked him. Mr Dillon's partner tried to intervene and was punched in the gut.

His partner’s 81-year-old grandmother witnessed the events and fled for her own safety.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Clarke acted as a “distraction”. There was no evidence he used direct violence. Clarke, of St Cronans Avenue, Swords, pleaded guilty to robbery of Mr Dillon at Swords Town Park on May 2nd, 2015. He has 55 previous convictions.

Judge Melanie Greally said the victim had hoped the trip to Ireland would be the holiday of a lifetime, and the mugging was "a very regrettable blight on their experience in this country".

The judge said she had intended to consider a fully suspended sentence on the basis of a favourable probation report when she adjourned the case last October, having heard the evidence.

She said the report before the court was not positive and that Clarke had not co-operated with the Probation Service before she imposed sentence. She suspended the final year of a four-year prison sentence.

Walk in the park

Garda Mairead Murray told Caroline Cummings BL, prosecuting, that Mr Dillon had been out for dinner with his partner and her grandmother on the first day of their holiday. Afterwards the group went for a walk in the park in the area behind Swords Castle.

They noticed that there was a group of young people also in the park.

Mr Dillon was taking photographs when Clarke approached and offered to be in the pictures. As Clarke posed, a second person stole the camera bag on the ground. Mr Dillon ran after this person and they ended up on the ground as he caught up with him.

Garda Murray said four to five youths, male and female, came over and began kicking and punching Mr Dillon. His partner was punched when she attempted to intervene.

Mr Dillon then saw one person had a knife and told the group to just take his wallet. The stolen items included cash, a camera bag, wallet, camera and mobile phone.

Mr Dillon suffered a broken scapula and was accompanied to hospital by his partner. Her grandmother had to spend the night alone in her hotel room.

Victim impact reports were handed to the judge but not read in open court.

Garda Murray said she managed to secure the camera and identified Clarke as the person who had been posing in the initial photographs. He was arrested but denied anything untoward had happened.

Garda Murray agreed with David Staunton BL, defending, that Clarke acted as a distraction while the others took items.

Appalling situation

Mr Staunton said that there was no evidence Clarke produced a knife or used direct violence. He said the offence was “mean-spirited” and that the tourists had been confronted by this “appalling situation” on their first day in Ireland. He said he was cognisant of the severe impact on the victims.

He said his client, who had suffered “varying degrees” of drug addiction during his life, had been coming before the courts for a significant number of years and served a cycle of moderately severe prison sentences in the past. He had been released each time without any structures in place.

Counsel asked the judge to take into account what was in store for Clarke on release if the cycle of coming before the courts was to be stopped.