08 Oct 2022

Man jailed after wielding knife at Letterkenny shop assistant

The man was jailed for three years after the robbery in July, 2019

Letterkenny court house.

Letterkenny court house.

A man who held a Letterkenny shop assistant at knifepoint will serve three years behind bars.

Stephen Stokes, a 29-year-old Dubliner, was jailed for the robbery at Kernan’s Spar, Lower Main Street, Letterkenny, on July 8, 2019.

Stokes was homeless when he committed the offence.

He made off with €600 in cash and five boxes of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. He also faced a charge of using force or putting Mark Hegarty in fear

Stokes waved a knife at Mr Hegarty, a shop assistant, and said: “Give me the money, don’t fuck about, I know where you live.”

Stokes warned Mr Hegarty not to call the Gardai for half-an-hour and issued a similar warning to a startled customer.

Stokes was located by Gardai the following day at a nearby hostel and became ‘verbally abusive’ when arrested by Garda Morris. He no admissions even when shown CCTV footage

Some unopened boxes of cigarettes were recovered, but the cash was not located.

Barrister for Stokes, Mr Sean McGee BL, said his client’s early life was ‘not idyllic’.

“He suffered a severely traumatic experience when he was seven and only spoke about it when he was 24 or 25,” Mr McGee said. “He carries that with him, but he does’t attempt to use that as leverage.”

Stokes’ parents were in court and Mr McGee said the accused had the ‘firm resolve’ of his family. Stokes disengaged from full-time education in his mid-teens, Mr McGee said.

Mr McGee added that Stokes has become ‘really into’ education since going into custody and recently completely a course in psychology. 

Stokes, who is a father-of-two from previous relationships, took to the stand to apologise for the incident.

“I was in a bad place at the time,” he said. “I even dream about it some nights. I want to apologise to everyone involved. I will do my best to make up for it.”

Judge John Aylmer said the starting point before mitigation was a sentence of five years in prison.

Stokes’ early plea of guilty was taken into account and, noting that the accused was homeless at the time, Judge Aylmer reduced the sentence to one of four years.

Judge Aylmer said the he needed to give Stokes an incentive for rehabilitation and said he would reduce the sentence by 12 months if the defendant entered a bond to keep the peace for two years post-release and to undergo drug treatment.

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