A MAN who put live rats in the council office where he worked was jailed today.
John O’Neill, 61, was obsessed because of a perceived difficulty with a colleague over a long period of time, which according to his lawyer had “built up, built up and built up” until he snapped.
In Bandon District Court, O’Neill of Glanduff, Kilbrittain, County Cork pleaded guilty to criminally damaging the Cork County Council offices at Rathbeg, Kinsale on February 9, 2021.
Sgt Peter Kelly said that O’Neill released two live rats after entering the council building on February 9, which he had previously captured and kept in traps.
He said: “Over a number of days staff arriving into work noticed extreme traces of excrement all over surfaces in their offices.“Pest control was called in on February 12 and found the source of the problems to be two rats which they caught and killed.
“Prior to this the staff had to do a clean up because of the surfaces covered in excrement”.
Sgt Kelly said O’Neill was caught on CCTV arriving at the council offices in his van.
He took an object from it and covered it with a jacket before going into the offices.
Detective Garda Michael Brosnan investigated the crime after it was reported to Kinsale Gardai on March 26, 2021 by management who believed the incident was suspicious.
He arrested O’Neill who made full admissions to him. He alleged a dispute with management was the motive and he expressed “genuine” remorse for his actions.
Judge James McNulty, who accepted jurisdiction in the case, was told that the cost of hiring the pest control company as well as the cleaning of the offices and replacing damaged keyboards, lights and cables came to €3,000.
O’Neill had brought that amount in compensation to court and the Judge asked his lawyer Diarmuid O’Shea to pay it to Cork County Council.Mr O’Shea said his client was 61 years old and married with grown up children who were attending college.
He had been working for Cork County Council for 23 years but had retired when this matter came to light at some financial loss to himself.
‘IT BUILT UP, BUILT UP AND BUILT UP’
He said O’Neill was engaged in a dispute over a long period of time with a colleague but he accepted there could be two sides to the story.
He explained: “It built up, built up and built up.He could not sleep. He was giving out about the situation every night when he got home from work.”
Mr O’Shea said O’Neill was admitted to hospital because of the stress. He ruined a holiday he went on to Portugal with his wife because he was talking about his grievances all the time and he did not sleep.
He said “he just flipped”, but Judge McNulty said this was not a case of him flipping because of the forethought and deliberate planning involved.
The Judge said: “He caught the rats and brought them to work. He must have realised this was not a good thing to do. He had a difficulty with one colleague but his actions impacted on all his colleagues there”.
Mr O’Shea said O’Neill’s actions were out of character for a man who had never been in trouble or in a court before.
He said: “He has asked me to apologise to his former co-workers admitting this was shocking behaviour which he does not understand himself. He has found himself in this type of trouble because of his stupid behaviour.”
Judge McNulty told him: “This is uniquely wicked and committed with malice towards one person. It was grossly reckless towards many.”
He said the task of the court was to impose a penalty which sent out a message that this type of behaviour and offending would not be tolerated.
He added: “It is sadly a case where time must be served so that others will appreciate the serious consequences such actions deserve”.
He sentenced O’Neill to six months in prison and fixed recognisance in the event of an appeal, which the defendants lawyer indicated would be taken.