A former Irish international snooker player has been jailed for two years after admitting that he poured petrol around the entrance to a neighbour’s house before setting it alight.
Aaron Tobin (24), from Chestnut Drive, Youghal, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage by fire to a neighbour's house in the estate on August 2nd, 2018.
Sgt John Sharkey told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Tobin believed the neighbour's son had damaged his car and he called looking for compensation. When a woman said she had no money to pay him, he threatened her.
Sgt Sharkey said Tobin told the woman he was going to burn her house and he returned later with a jerry can of petrol which he poured around the porch before igniting it with a lighter and leaving the scene.
The woman and her two sons were in an upstairs room watching Tobin as they were terrified but they came down and managed to extinguish the blaze before the fire brigade and gardaí arrived at the scene.
Tobin returned to the scene and, in the presence of gardaí, threatened the woman’s younger son. When he was arrested, he denied setting the porch on fire, Sgt Sharkey said.
The damage to the porch consisted primarily of scorch marks, which the court heard the family managed to clean off, so that the damage was minimal in the end, he added.
The court heard that Tobin had a total of 12 previous convictions including two for criminal damage when he was a juvenile.
Sgt Sharkey said relations between Tobin’s family and their neighbours had returned to normal to a considerable degree thanks to the woman and her family not harbouring any grudge or resentment over the arson attack.
Defence barrister Padraig Langsch BL said Tobin was a very promising snooker player who had represented Ireland but he had a history of depression which had an impact on him. He said Tobin recognised that his behaviour on the night was unacceptable and he was deeply remorseful.
He said Tobin, who now has a young child, hoped to resume his snooker career and was willing to work with the Probation Service to try an turn his life around.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan said Tobin was very fortunate his neighbours were able to extinguish the blaze so quickly as he might otherwise have found himself in court on much more serious charges than criminal damage.
He said that putting people’s lives at risk as Tobin had done was quite shocking and it was particularly worrying that the attack was clearly pre-meditated.
“There was nothing reckless or off the cuff about your actions,” said Judge O’Callaghan, who noted that there was no evidence of Tobin being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.
He noted that Tobin then left the scene only to return again and in the presence of the gardaí threatened to slit the throat of the woman’s son.
He said Tobin’s guilty plea was a mitigating factor as this had helped restore good relations with the neighbours as they were spared having to come to court to testify.
The judge noted a probation report which found that Tobin was at a high risk of reoffending, notwithstanding his remorse and his guilty plea.
He said the court had to deal with the offence by way of custodial sentence and he sentenced him to three years with 12 months suspended on condition that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of three years.
He also ordered Tobin to pay €2,500 in compensation to the neighbour for the damage caused to her house and to participate in anger management courses and stay off alcohol and drugs for a period of three years.