03 Jul 2022

Man appears in court in Tullamore after 'frightening' experience for staff at country hotel

'Frightening' experience for staff at Laois country hotel

Mountrath farmer appeared in custody at Tullamore District Court

A well known accommodation provider in the Midlands has spoken of the impact an early morning raid on the premises has had on the business.

William Phelan, 53, Paddock, Mountrath, appeared in custody at Tullamore District Court today and pleaded guilty to theft and drunkenness offences in Mountrath and Portlaoise.

The court heard that on July 29 last he entered Roundwood House, Mountrath at 7.15am when breakfast was being prepared for guests in the kitchen.

Sergeant James O'Sullivan told the court Mr Phelan told a woman in the kitchen that he wanted alcohol.

The woman knew him and was frightened and after demanding the alcohol Mr Phelan went to the cellar and took a bottle of wine.

At 1.40pm the same day he entered the SuperValu store at Lyster Square, Portlaoise and stole another bottle of wine.

Judge Mary Cashin also heard that he had stolen a bottle of wine from the same shop on July 23 and on July 28 he was stumbling at Main Street, Mountrath because of intoxication.

The court was provided with a statement from Hannah Flynn, Roundwood House. In the statement Ms Flynn said the incident on the morning of July 29 had been an extremely frightening experience.

“All my staff are now extremely nervous and it makes it very hard to run a business,” Ms Flynn's statement said.

Judge Cashin added: “It's hard enough to run a business these days without the likes of Mr Phelan interfering with it and doing what he's doing.”

She told the defendant that he was putting people going about their business “in fear”.

The court was told the man, described by defending solicitor Barry Fitzgerald as a bachelor farmer, had previous convictions for public order offences and had been disqualified from driving in 2019 for three years for drink-driving.

“I'm not a psychologist, I'm not going to lecture you on what you should and shouldn't do,” Judge Cashin told him.

“It seems to me there's an escalation in your behaviour which is very worrying.”

Mr Fitzgerald said Mr Phelan had only become known to the court in recent times and he attributed an increase in his drinking to the death of his mother in 2016.

He had alcohol difficulties before that and was now a chronic alcoholic and the thefts he was responsible for were bottles of wine.

When he appeared before Portlaoise District Court previously, Judge Catherine Staines had recommended that he receive treatment for his alcohol addiction.

He had just spent two weeks in prison and that had triggered a sea change in him and had a sobering effect on him, both literally and metaphorically, said Mr Fitzgerald.

Mr Fitzgerald said his client was apologetic and in particular offered his apologies to Roundwood House.

Judge Cashin said the man had “done nothing” in two weeks. “He could have written to the lady and expressed an apology.”

Mr Phelan told the court he had suggested to the gardai that he write to the woman but they told him he was to have no contact with the victim.

Mr Fitzgerald asked that a custodial sentence not be imposed and that Mr Phelan be given an opportunity to get help with his alcoholism.

Sergeant O'Sullivan said he would have no objection to the man being granted bail if one of the conditions was that he abstain from alcohol.

Judge Cashin told Mr Phelan the State could have had him brought before the Circuit Court and though he had come before the District Court, he was still subject to a sentence of up to 12 months in prison.

She said she would direct the preparation of a probation report. Noting that Judge Staines had applied the Probation Act on a previous occasion, she said that seemed to have gone over Mr Phelan's head and it was now up to him to take control of his life.

She remanded him on bail on his own bond of €300 to appear before Portlaoise District Court on October 22 next.

In addition to abstaining from alcohol, she ordered that he seek treatment for alcohol addiction and sign on once a week at Portlaoise garda station.

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