Man who offered ‘cheaper” energy service gets suspended sentence

Engineers from Bord Gáis and ESB tell gardaí the tampering with meters had been extremely dangerous

Judge Sarah Berkeley said the offences were serious and premeditated but occurred during a period of extreme instability in McLoughlin’s life

Judge Sarah Berkeley said the offences were serious and premeditated but occurred during a period of extreme instability in McLoughlin’s life

 

A Dublin grandfather who offered a “cheaper” energy service to householders by tampering with their ESB and Bord Gáis meters has been given a suspended sentence.

Engineers from Bord Gáis (now Ervia) and the ESB told gardaí­ that James McLoughlin’s (42) activities had been extremely dangerous, with risk of electrocution, gas leaks and explosion.

Det Gda David Ennis said one woman told gardaí that McLoughlin had interfered with her meter to allow a free flow of gas into her house for €100. The woman said McLoughlin had advised her to top the meter up by €10 a week and Bord Gáis “won’t come near you”.

McLoughlin, of Summer Street South, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to criminally damaging two Bord Gáis meters and an ESB meter at Summer Street South, Dublin 8, between July 2nd, 2013 and February 25th, 2014.

He also pleaded guilty to possessing a stolen Bord Gáis meter at his address on February 25th, 2014 and to interfering with a Bord Gáis meter and ESB meter between June 26th, 2013, and February 25th, 2014.

He further pleaded guilty to interfering with a Bord Gáis meter at Benbulbin Road, Drimnagh, between March 1st, and May 31st, 2013.

McLoughlin had 42 previous convictions, including road traffic and theft offences.

The court previously heard that McLoughlin had serious mental health and addiction problems.

Instability

She noted his personal circumstance were complicated and difficult, but that he had been making significant efforts to address his issues and had proven himself in terms of rehabilitation. In her view a period of incarceration at this time would be detrimental.She imposed a three-year sentence, which she suspended for four years.

Det Gda Ennis said McLoughlin, who was not qualified to work with meters, had offered householders a “cheaper” energy service than the suppliers.

The detective told Garrett McCormack, prosecuting, that he and colleagues set up surveillance on McLoughlin in 2013 after receiving confidential information about a person tampering with meters.

Gardaí­ observed McLoughlin visiting a number of houses and got a search warrant for his address. A Bord Gáis engineer attended the search and discovered two stolen gas meters on the property. Det Gda Ennis said McLoughlin “exercised his right to silence” on his arrest following this search.

The detective said investigators returned to the house in February 2014 to rearrest McLoughlin after discovering his fingerprint on a gas meter on Benbulbin Road.

First raid

A Bord Gáis engineer found two more stolen meters during a second search of McLoughlin’s house in February 2014.

An ESB engineer also discovered that an electricity meter had been drilled to stop the recorded usage at the premises.

Det Gda Ennis said this engineer had to fit a tamper-proof ESB meter, while Bord Gáis had to take extra measures to prevent McLoughlin from interfering with the gas supply.

The detective agreed with Damien Colgan SC, defending, that gardaí­ had not been prohibited from entering his client’s house a second time although they had no search warrant.

Mr Colgan submitted that that McLoughlin, a qualified plumber, had made efforts to deal with his “issues”. He said his client also suffered from depression.