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81-year-old wheelchair user will travel to court to explain impact of theft

By Liam Heylin

An 81-year-old wheelchair-bound man is to come to court to give evidence on how a theft affected him as the defence objected to his daughter giving evidence.

Judge John King said he noted the strong objections from the defence about the victim’s daughter giving the evidence on how the crime impacted on him.

The judge said he could take a written victim impact statement from the accused so that he would not have to come to court. He also said the only statutory provision for a family member giving victim impact evidence was in a case where the victim was deceased.

At that stage in the sentencing hearing yesterday, it was indicated that the victim would come to court in his wheelchair.

Sentencing of the man who stole money from the 81-year-old was then adjourned until September 25.

The victim, who is confined to a wheelchair, had his Visa card used without his knowledge by a neighbour who was ostensibly acting in a caring capacity.

Detective Garda Noel Maxwell described this background to the seven theft charges committed by Gerard Higgins, aged 50, of Henry St, Cork.

The total amount of money stolen by Higgins from John Buckley was €2,600. The detective said Higgins was acting in the role of unofficial part-time carer to the elderly man who lived nearby.

“He had access to his home and knew where he kept his Visa card and also knew Mr Buckley’s PIN number for the card,” said Det Gda Maxwell.

On each theft, he took the card from a drawer and went to the ATM of the AIB at North Main St or to the ATM across the road at the PTSB and made withdrawals from Mr Buckley’s account without his knowledge. The card was then returned to the drawer.

Diarmuid Kelleher, defence solicitor, said the accused had now gathered the €2,600 in full for the victim.

The seven thefts were committed between February and May last year.

Mr Kelleher said the defendant’s financial circumstances were absolutely dire at the time and he was desperate to get some money for his family.