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Man who distracted tourists as accomplices robbed them jailed for three years

Brian Clarke (31) was identified by photographs taken as he posed with the US visitors.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

A MAN WHO posed for tourists taking photographs in a town park as his accomplices robbed the group of their belongings has been jailed for three years.

Brian Clarke (31) was later identified by gardai from the photographs on the camera.

American tourist Ryan Dillon pursued the robbers but was surrounded by a group of youths who punched and kicked him. His partner tried to intervene and was punched in the gut.

Dillon’s partner’s 81-year-old grandmother witnessed the events and fled for her own safety.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Clarke acted as a “distraction” and there was no evidence he used direct violence.

Clarke, of St Cronans Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to robbery of American tourist Ryan Dillon at Swords Town Park on May 2, 2015. He has 55 previous convictions.

Judge Melanie Greally said the victim had hoped the trip to Ireland would be the holiday of a lifetime and the mugging was “a very regrettable blight on their experience in this country”.

Not positive 

She said she had intended to consider a fully suspended sentence on the basis of a favourable probation report when she adjourned the case last October, having heard the evidence.

She said the report before the court was not positive and that Clarke had not co-operated with the Probation Service. She suspended the final year of a four-year prison sentence.

Garda Mairéad Murray told Caroline Cummings BL, prosecuting, that Dillon had been out for dinner with his partner and her 81-year-old grandmother on the first day of their holiday and afterwards the group went for a walk in the park in the area behind Swords Castle.

They noticed that there was a group of young people also in the park.

Dillon was taking photographs when Clarke approached and offered to be in the pictures. As Clarke posed, a second person stole the camera bag on the ground. Dillon ran after this person and they ended up on the ground as he caught up with him.

Murray said four to five youths, male and female, came over and began kicking and punching Dillon. His partner attempted to intervene and she was punched to the gut.
Dillon then saw one person had a knife and told the group to just take his wallet.

Alone

The items taken included cash, a camera bag, wallet, camera and mobile phone.
Dillon suffered a broken scapula and was accompanied to hospital by his partner. Her grandmother had to spend the night alone in her hotel room.

Victim impact reports were handed to the judge but not read in open court.

Murray said she managed to secure the camera and identified Clarke as a person who had been posing in the initial photographs. He was arrested but denied anything untoward had happened.

Murray agreed with David Staunton BL, defending, that Clarke acted as a distraction while the others took items. Staunton said that there was no evidence Clarke produced a knife or used direct violence. He said the offence was “mean spirited” and that the tourists had been confronted by this “appalling situation” on their first day in Ireland. He said he was cognisant of the severe impact on the victims.

He said Clarke, who had suffered “varying degrees” of drug addiction during his life, had been coming before the courts for a significant number of years and served a cycle of moderately severe prison sentences in the past but had been released each time without any structures in place.

Counsel asked Judge Greally to take into account what was in store for Clarke on release if the cycle of coming before the courts was to be stopped.

Read: Over 300k belonging to criminal gang discovered in woman’s home following search >

Read: ‘You are not alone’: Irish women in London have been anonymously sharing their secrets >

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Nadya Labi

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