Storm Emma looter avoids jail after ‘progressing very well’

Court gives 39-year-old suspended sentence and orders him to stay ‘on straight and narrow’

A convicted burglar who looted a shop during Storm Emma in 2018 will go to prison if he does not stay “on the straight and narrow”, the Court of Appeal has warned.

David Berney (39),of Suncroft Park, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty in 2018 to burglary at a Centra store in Jobstown, Tallaght on March 2nd, 2018, during the heavy snow. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence which the Court of Appeal ruled in March last year was unduly lenient.

The court gave Berney time to show that he could rehabilitate and on Thursday Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said she was "gratified that he has progressed very well".

She said the appropriate sentence was three years but in light of his successful efforts to rehabilitate the court would suspend the entire term for three years. The suspension is subject to conditions, including that if he loses his job he must engage with probation services to find a new one. Ms Justice Kennedy backdated the sentence to November 2019.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Berney had the suspended sentence "hanging over his head". He added: "Having got himself on the straight and narrow he must stay there and if he lets matters slip he will be in a very serious situation."

At Berney's sentence hearing his barrister Eoin Lawlor said Berney was, like many people, reminded of his childhood by the heavy snowfall. "But unlike others he was high on cocaine at the time," counsel told Judge Cormac Quinn.

He was also on bail awaiting prosecution for a burglary of a private home at Rocklodge, Stepaside on December 3rd, 2014. He pleaded guilty to both offences and the judge imposed a two-year sentence for the 2014 burglary.

Mr Quinn imposed a further 18 months for the looting incident but suspended this term on condition that he keep the peace and engage with addiction and social reintegration services. The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.