A member of a Dublin crime gang who was found hiding on a golf course by a sniffer dog after being pursued by gardaí following a series of burglaries in Cork, has been jailed for eight years.
Laurence Connors (28), of Cherryfield Way Halting Site in Tallaght, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday to four offences arising out of a crime spree on September 12th last.
Connors pleaded guilty to burglary at a house at Eyrecourt, Rochestown and to endangerment of Garda Joseph Halpin and Garda Dinah Birnbaum when he drove at and hit their patrol car at Rochestown.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing, knowing it to be stolen property, a safe, €8,625 in cash, €650 in coins, and jewellery, watches and foreign currency valued at a total of €27,085 on the N40 South Link in Cork.
Det Supt Mick Comyns told the court that Connors was part of a three-man gang that left Dublin early that morning in an Audi that was stolen in Essex, England just over a week earlier and fitted with false number plates.
An off-duty garda saw the gang acting suspiciously in the Rochestown area at around 2.30pm and Garda Halpin and Garda Birnbaum arrived on the scene and caught the gang breaking into a house.
Connors was sitting in the driver’s seat of the car as two masked men emerged from the house carrying a safe. After they got into the car, Connors drove the Audi at the garda car, ramming it twice, Det Supt Comyns said.
Connors took off at speed and drove down on to the N40 South Link and headed towards the Jack Lynch Tunnel but gardaí had blocked off the northward bore so he went up a service road.
He turned off the N40 in the direction of Carrigaline but then tried to reverse back on to the N40, getting stuck on an embankment. Connors and his two associates then abandoned the car and fled across the motorway.
They entered some marshland and moved in the direction of Mahon Golf Club as gardaí mounted a major search. A garda sniffer dog found Connors hiding in undergrowth near where a bag with jewellery stolen earlier in Ballinhassig was found.
Det Supt Comyns said that Connors had 36 previous convictions including for theft, burglary, possession of stolen property, attempting to pervert the course of justice and possessing drugs for sale or supply.
Donal O’Sullivan BL, defending, said his client’s guilty plea had spared the State a two week trial that would have involved 44 witnesses and he asked Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin to be as lenient as possible to his client.
The judge acknowledged that Connors had spared the need for a lengthy trial but said he clearly was involved in “a professional, determined, organised crime gang”. He noted that the gang had come to Cork in a stolen car with a supply of false number plates as well as tools to remove a safe from a house and cleaning items and disinfectants to ensure they left no DNA evidence.
He said the group had come to Cork fully equipped to not just to carry out a burglary but to go on an crime spree. However, they were thwarted by gardaí after the Rochestown burglary.
Judge Ó Donnabháin noted that Connors, as the driver of the car, twice rammed a garda car and said Garda Halpin and Garda Birnbaum were fortunate to have avoided serious injury.
He said the maximum sentence for burglary is 14 years and sentenced Connors to 10 years with the final two years suspended. He also disqualified Connors from driving for 10 years.