A volunteer carpenter on RTE’s SOS DIY: The Big Build who learned his trade in prison has received an eight-month sentence after being caught driving without insurance for the fifth time.
aron Byrne told gardai, who stopped him while doing 113 kph in a 60kph zone, that he was excited after getting news he was going back on the DIY SOS show.
But it then emerged the 28-year-old, who served five years for stabbing a teenager over a drug debt in 2014, was also banned from driving when stopped on June 5.
Officers discovered he was serving an eight-year driving ban only imposed in March and had previously been banned for two years and four years on other occasions.
His defence lawyer told Athy District Court this week that Byrne had a “chequered past” up until 2015, when he was imprisoned for a knife attack on a teenager over a €250 drug debt.
He had spent five years in prison during which time he lost his father and had not been released from prison to attend the funeral.
He also appeared in court in 2018 where he pleaded guilty to a charge of affray after he was one of three men who chased another man off a bus in Crumlin, south Dublin.
At that hearing, photographs of his woodwork were handed into court with the trial judge remarking Byrne was “an exemplary prisoner and skilled craftsman” who was putting his time to good use while in custody.
“I am satisfied he has now committed to a law abiding life,” the judge said.
His defence lawyer this week said that Byrne now runs a carpentry workshop and employs five people and had worked as a volunteer on three episodes of DIY SOS: The Big Build.
The show, presented by Baz Ashmawy, sees tradespeople and suppliers coming together to carry out a building project for a good cause.
“He had been in a work van when he got a phone call to appear on the RTE programme DIY SOS and that’s why he went over the speed limit. He’s done this programme three times now, and would hope to appear on the next one, ” the court was told.
His lawyer added that an arranged lift had fallen through and Byrne took a chance using the van to go home. He made a full admission when stopped by gardai.
In 2015, Byrne was sentenced for stabbing a 15-year-old at a housing estate in Naas, Co Kildare as he tried to collect a drug debt.
The day before the stabbing he met with the boy at a service station where €100 was handed over and the next day had been due to meet the teen in Naas where the row broke out.
Byrne took out a knife and stabbed the teenager under the ribcage, penetrating his chest wall and left lung. A medical report concluded that the youngster had a major bleed and required an immediate life-saving operation to repair his chest wall and left lower lung.
Byrne’s father was in Tallaght hospital at the same time as the victim and the teenager’s mother recognised him as the man who had previously called to her house demanding money.
Byrne, who then had an address in Tallaght, pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the teenager in Naas on April 12, 2014.
The trial judge suspended the final three years of the eight-year term after accepting that Byrne was remorseful and appeared capable of reform.
He said Byrne was intent on collecting the money for the cannabis he sold the teenager and the fact that the assault initially arose out of criminal activity was an aggravating factor.
He added that the teenager could have died had it not been for the prompt medical attention he received but acknowledged that he has since made a full recovery.
This week, his defence lawyer said Byrne was willing to make “a substantial donation” to the court instead of a custodial sentence.
“My client is very anxious about leaving his wife and little girl alone if he goes into custody,” he said.
“He has a sum of €2,000 in court, but could have more.”
Judge Zaidan asked what excuse did he give for his eight-year ban imposed earlier this year and was told that Byrne had been convicted in his absence.
“The court is satisfied the aggravating circumstances far outweigh mitigation,” said the judge, who said he took on board the mitigation heard in court including his volunteer work on the RTE show.
He sentenced Byrne to three months for having no insurance and a further five consecutively for driving while banned.
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