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Man receives six-year sentence for burglary at home of blues singer Mary Coughlan

The judge noted that Coughlan was ‘fortunate to be with two able-bodied men’ when she interrupted the burglary at her home.

BLUES SINGER MARY Coughlan was “fortunate to be with two able-bodied men” when she interrupted a burglary at her home in Wicklow two years ago, a judge has observed.

The comments were made by Judge Patrick Quinn as he sentenced a Wicklow man, Darren Carton, to five years in prison for the burglary of the well-known performer’s home at Barchuilla Commons, Kilmacanogue on 9 January, 2021.

Carton (42) of Carraigoona Close, Kilmacanogoue, Co Wicklow was found guilty of the burglary following a seven-day jury trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court in December.

The accused, who was described by the judge as a chronic drug user, was also convicted of criminal damage to a sliding door at Coughlan’s house on the same date.

Carton was acquitted of a separate charge of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Coughlan’s son-in-law, Ciarán Farrelly, when he attempted to stop the accused from escaping from the scene.

The trial heard evidence that Coughlan was warned by her son-in-law that an intruder had a knife as she arrived back with her partner, John Kelly, to find a burglary in progress at her Wicklow home.

The singer, who was not required to attend court to give evidence, described in a witness statement how she had received a call from Farrelly as she was returning home that someone had attempted to break into her house.

On arriving home, Coughlan said Kelly and Farrelly, who lived in an adjoining property, had attempted to catch Carton after they found him leaving one of the properties.

The accused managed to escape following a brief struggle with Farrelly and Kelly.

The trial heard that Farrelly had taken a video of the intruder with his phone and was driving in Kilmacanogue on the day after the incident when he noticed a man at a bus stop on the N11 who was wearing the same trousers and trainers as the burglar whom he also recorded.

Detective Garda David McHugh told a sentencing hearing today that Carton was identified from the images captured on Farrelly’s phone, while one of his fingerprints was also found on a parked vehicle which he had touched while in a confrontation with Coughlan’s son-in-law.

The court heard Carton, who comes originally from Bray, Co Wicklow but has little or no contact with his family, has 84 previous convictions including 25 for burglary offences.

Counsel for the DPP, James Kelly BL, said Farrelly had provided a victim impact statement in which he outlined how the incident had a significant impact on his and Coughlan’s families.

Farrelly said he was “constantly on edge” following the burglary and would watching everyone passing his house and wonder what they were doing.

He claimed his children also had difficulty sleeping after reading media reports about the house being broken into.

Farrelly said he had bought a dog and installed CCTV and an upgraded alarm system following the burglary, while Coughlan had taken similar additional security measures.

“The impact has been more than you can imagine on all my family,” said Farrelly.

He criticised Carton for showing no remorse at any stage during the trial and claimed his family and the whole community of Kilmacanogue would be relieved he would be “gone.”

Farrelly noted that the damage to the sliding door in Ms Coughlan’s house had cost around €4,000 to repair.

Counsel for Carton, Justin McQuaide BL, said his client’s offending had begun as a teenager in 1995 and he had been a well-known drug user for a large part of his life.

McQuaide said a not insignificant amount of Carton’s offending was linked to his need for money to feed a chronic drug addiction.

Counsel said Carton accepted the verdict of the jury and had agreed that Coughlan was not required to come to court to give evidence and face cross-examination.

“He lives a very lonely and isolated life as a consequence of his behaviour,” said McQuaide.

However, he claimed Carton, whom he described as “a very talented artist”, was in need of a significant residential drug treatment programme if he was to avoid being “in and out of prison for the rest of his life.”

Judge Quinn said he believed there were many victims of burglaries as society at large felt threatened on reading media reports about the offence, “particularly older people living alone.”

Sentencing Carton to six years in prison, the judge suspended the final year on condition he does not come to the attention of gardaí for 12 months after his release.

He also sentenced the accused to 12 months for the criminal damage to Coughlan’s home to run currently.

Judge Quinn backdated the sentence after being informed that Carton had already spent over 18 months in custody in relation to the offences.

The judge observed that he would have been “far more generous” if Carton had pleaded guilty to the charge.

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Seán McCárthaigh