A 42 year-old man rang Clonmel Garda Station early one morning claiming he was armed with an AK 47 and pistol and holding his partner and adult son hostage in their home, Clonmel Circuit Court heard last week.
But when members of the Garda Armed Response Unit arrived at the house at Brook Crescent in Clonmel's Old Bridge area, they found the caller Robert Devine in an intoxicated state and his partner and son weren't under threat.
The hoax call to gardaí on September 26, 2017 earned Devine with an address at 3 Wheatfields, Clonmel, a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence with the final 12 months suspended at last Friday's sitting of the Circuit Court.
Judge Tom Teehan imposed the sentence after Devine pleaded guilty to knowingly making a false report to gardai intending to show that an offence had been committed or intending to give rise to apprehension for the safety of persons or property at 11 Brook Crescent, Clonmel.
Det. Gda. Pat O'Gorman said Gda. Mark Holden received a call at Clonmel Garda Station at 6.10am on this date from a mobile number.
He recognised the caller's voice as that of Robert Devine. The defendant threatened that he was holding his son and his partner hostage and was armed with an AK 47 and 9mm pistol and hung up the phone. The garda rang the number back and Robert Devine answered and repeated the threat.
Members of the Garda Armed Response Unit and other gardai went to Devine's home at Brook Crescent.
When they entered the house, they found Robert Devine in a highly intoxicated state. It was quickly established that Devine's partner Lorna Smith and his adult son Lee Kelly weren't being held against their will and not under any threat.
Gardaí recovered a replica AK 47 in the hallway. Robert Devine was in possession of two mobile phones, one of which had logged a call to Clonmel Garda Station.
Det. O'Gorman said gardaí were satisfied Devine made a false report to gardaí and he was arrested and brought to Clonmel Garda Station. He admitted making a false report to gardaí and said it was "stupid" of him to do that.
The detective outlined that Devine had 33 previous convictions, the most serious of which was a 10 year jail sentence for manslaughter, which he received in 2009.
He also had convictions for possession of a firearm, assault, domestic violence, possession of a flick knife, escape from lawful custody, theft, public order, drugs possession and road traffic offences.
Defence barrister Edward O'Mahony BL said the Armed Response Unit was stood down shortly after they arrived at his client's home when they were satisfied there was no threat.
Ms Smith gave a statement to gardaí saying she was never under any threat. She recalled that a significant amount of alcohol was consumed that night by Devine and she heard him making a phone call.
The barrister said his client apologised immediately to the gardai and pointed out that at the time he was under the apprehension that his life was under threat.
While this may or may not have been accurate at the time, it was a fact that a GIM (Garda Information Message) form about such a threat was served on his client in November that year.
Mr O'Mahony pointed out there were certain matters his client didn't want mentioned in open court that had a significant impact on his frame of mind at the time of this incident.
He submitted that his client has struggled in the recent past with abusing alcohol and other substances and mental health problems.
Those issues converged in a disastrous way on the day he committed this offence. His client had interacted positively with prison officers since being remanded in custody in relation to this offence in June last year and he attended 12 counselling sessions with the Merchants Quay addiction treatment service.
Judge Tom Teehan said this offence was committed by a man who committed a large number of serious offences and who had a considerable amount of alcohol consumed. It was a situation that caused the resources of the Armed Response Unit to be deployed.
Taking these aggravating factors into account along with the mitigating factors including his plea of guilty, apology and rehabilitation efforts in prison, the Judge believed the appropriate sentence was a two and a half year jail term.
He suspended the final 12 months of that term on condition Devine entered into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years.
Judge Teehan directed Devine to continue to engage with the addiction treatment services providing evidence of this engagement to his solicitor every six months.
He also directed him to refrain from ingesting alcohol and illicit drugs for two years after his release from prison and ordered the destruction of the replica AK47.