A DAD-OF-TWO broke into a warehouse in which a school bus was stored, drove it away and then set it on fire at another location, a court heard today.
Rhys O’Connell, 32, did not know the owner of the bus, who had just purchased it at a cost of €48,000, and gave no explanation for his act of vandalism which left the vehicle a complete write-off.
He pleaded guilty in the Cork Circuit Criminal Court to four charges – one of burglary and three of criminal damage including one in respect of the arson attack on the bus on November 29, 2019.
O’Connell with an address at Clashmore, County Waterford was captured on CCTV forcing entry into the warehouse in an industrial estate in Youghal, County Cork and then leaving the premises driving the bus at 11.05 p.m.
He was picked up again on camera at Safehaven Marine in the town getting out of the bus after setting it on fire.
He then crossed the road to the Millennium Industrial Estate where he smashed the windows of two cars parked there.
Judge Sean O’Donnabhain was told that the bus owner claimed for the vehicle from his insurance company but was about €6,000 out of pocket as he did not receive the full amount he had paid for it.
The judge remarked that “insurance companies are not known for their largesse in paying out such claims”, adding there was no possibility of receiving the extra money from the defendant.
The court was told that O’Connell was heavily dependent on drugs and was highly intoxicated from drugs and drink on the night.
He was residing with his mother in Clashmore and was unemployed. He has two children aged 10 years and three months.
He has 18 previous convictions including a number for road traffic offences and drugs.
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Judge O’Donnabhain said he could not imagine the aggravation the bus owner would have had to go through dealing with the insurance company, who probably used “the book value” in assessing the loss.
He said: “This hardworking individual who provides a bus service in the town of Youghal is at loss of thousands”.
He sentenced O’Connell to three years in prison but suspended the last year.End