[h2]It created a 'monster' - solicitor[/h2]
The mother of a 19-year-old Donegal Town man, who pleaded guilty to stealing €15,000 of 'legal highs' from a headshop, said her son's life changed dramatically after he came into contact with the controversial substances.
Donegal Town District Court heard yesterday how Richard Burke of 25 Railway Park, Donegal Town pleaded guilty to the burglary of €15,000 worth of legal high drugs and other paraphernalia from Yutopia on Main Street, Donegal Town on December 11, 2009.
Ann Marie Burke said her son was "always a very good boy" and "normal teenager" but his life took a turn for the worst when he began using the drugs sold legally in headshops.
She said a year and a half ago she noticed her sons mood change and his behaviour began to deteriorate out of his normal character.
He left home and entered college but was struggling and shortly afterwards he began residing back in his family home until his mother asked him to leave as his behaviour became "unbearable".
She did not see him again until he was arrested when she tracked him down and asked him to come home under the condition he would stops using drugs. After "falling off the wagon" she said her son approached his father asking him to help get specialist treatment and he entered White Oaks clinic shortly afterwards and was now drug free.
She said she was only aware of her son using products from the head shop, which was a "cannabis type" substance he smoked.
Solicitor Ian McKenna said his client "very much regrets his actions" but had difficulty with drugs at the time and had also moved into a house with other drug users.
He said he had a job and a college place but lost both. On the night of the burglary there was a quality of cash on the premises that he did not take and opted to take the drugs and other items instead, he added.
"These headshops have created a monster in that he was addicted to the products they were supplying," the solicitor stated.
He said his client was now about to start a new college course in Letterkenny and was back living with his parents.
Garda Elaine Kelly said she received a call from the owners of Yutopia on December 12 stating they had been broken into and €15,000 of stock taken.
She said the suspect was identified quickly and after his arrest he admitted he carried out the theft and was co-operative. She added three quarters of the goods were recovered but some of the substances were either consumed or given away to others.
Garda Kelly told the court she was led to believe the defendant carried out the break-in "for fun" and not to gain access to the legal highs but Burke's mother said the headshop and its products had greatly affected her sons life and he was still suffering from the effects of the substance abuse despite now being drug free.
Judge Kevin Kilrane said this was a "sad case" because of the impact of the episode had on the Burke family but added the defendant should feel "a sense of shame" for his crime.
He gave credit to his family for there perseverance and support and said he would allow time to see if Burke could be brought back into the "circle of legality and normality", otherwise he could face a prison sentence in the future.
He adjourned the case until December 1.
By Eamonn McFadden
02 September 2010