Man gets suspended sentence for role in arson at apartment complex

By Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

A young man has been given a suspended sentence for his role in an arson at an apartment complex which was used to accommodate homeless people.

Graham Fitzgerald (22) was living with his cousin next door to the apartment that went on fire.

Dublin Criminal Courts of Justice 2 October 2016

Gardai have been unable to establish what caused the fire in the bedroom of the unoccupied apartment in a complex that was run by Focus Ireland for homeless people.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that gardai managed to get the building evacuated and no resident was in immediate danger. Damage amounting to €45,000 was done to the apartment, mainly due to electric work and replacement furniture.

Graham Fitzgerald pleaded guilty to arson at Greenhills Court Apartments, Tallaght on March 26, 2015 and attempted robbery at Milanos, Abberley Square North, Tallaght on February 14, 2016. Graham has four previous convictions including criminal damage and public order.

He was on bail for the arson at the time he committed the attempted robbery.

On Friday, Judge Melanie Greally noted his case had been adjourned on successive occasions for various reasons and most recently to encourage him to engage in a meaningful way with the Probation Service.

She said she had not imposed sentence on an earlier date as he had been very young, using drugs and under the influence of antisocial peers when he committed the offences.

She noted he had psychological vulnerabilities and challenging circumstances during his upbringing.

Judge Greally said there was now tangible evidence before the court that Graham was drug free.

She imposed consecutive sentences totalling five years, suspended in full on strict conditions.

Detective Garda Kieran McGrath told John Fitzgerald BL, prosecuting, that gardai were alerted to intruders at the Greenhills Court Apartments in Tallaght at 3am on March 26, 2015.

When gardai arrived there was a fire in an apartment on the first floor. Officers used force to enter the building as they were concerned for residents and spotted the fire in the bedroom.

After some time they established that the apartment was empty.

Det Gda McGrath said the smoke was so heavy that gardai had to leave and the whole complex was ultimately evacuated. The woman who runs the complex confirmed that the resident who usually occupied that particular apartment wasn't there at the time.

It was established that Graham Fitzgerald and his cousin Gary Fitzgerald (21) were living in the apartment next door to the one that had been on fire. The balconies were beside each other and they were identified as the intruders.

CCTV footage played to the court showed the Fitzgeralds attempting to get into their own apartment before they try to get onto the balcony of the one next door.

Both men were arrested. Graham Fitzgerald later said in interview that he had a row with the resident in the apartment next door during which his own cheek was bitten. He denied climbing onto the balcony or starting the fire.

Det Gda McGrath agreed with Garnet Orange SC, defending Graham, that there was no evidence to indicate how the fire had started but photographs suggested that the mattress in the bedroom had been set on fire.

He accepted that the other residents in the complex got out in time and nobody was in any immediate danger.

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