By Declan Brennan
A serial burglar broke into a house two months after his release from prison during the 2020 lockdown.
Lawyers for John Matthews (42) told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that his ambitions to go from prison into residential drug treatment were thwarted by lockdown.
Matthews of Desmond Ave., Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, had served half of a nine year prison term when he was released in July 2020.
The second half of the sentence, imposed for 56 burglaries committed in a 16 month period, was suspended on various conditions.
These included that he keep the peace for five years after his release and attend drug treatment.
Last Friday, Matthews was back before Judge Pauline Codd, who had sentenced him in 2018, after he was picked up for breaking into a house on the Upper Glenageary rd., south Dublin on September 5, 2020.
Matthews later pleaded guilty to that burglary.
His 124 previous convictions include 115 convictions linked to burglaries.
Garda Colm McLoughlin told the court that the homeowners were on holidays at the time and a professional cat minder had called to the house to tend to their cats.
She found the back window smashed and jewellery boxes knocked about the rooms.
No jewellery was taken. but some small value cash notes, including a 200,000 Thai baht note, worth about two euros, was missing.
These were later found at Matthew’s home after he was identified on footage from a doorbell camera at the house.
The court heard that Matthews would knock on the door of houses to see if anybody was home.
He would then break into the unoccupied home by smashing in a window or the glass in a door.
Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing BL, defending, told the court that his client’s father first involved him in house burglaries when he was only five years old.
Mr Ó Dúnlaing said that when Matthews was released from prison in July 2020 the Coolmine residential drug treatment centre was closed due to Covid lockdown and “it proved impossible” for him to get into treatment.
Judge Codd said that she accepted that Matthews is not a violent criminal, but said his criminal record is shocking.
She said she also accepted his offending is connected to his drug habit, but she said “he has to kick it”.
She adjourned the case to February 21 next year to allow the defence to clarify if there is a place for Matthews on a drug treatment programme.
She said she had already given him every chance and that he is now facing a substantial amount of time in prison.