A former Cork County Council worker was jailed for six months after he pleaded guilty to releasing two rats into the offices of his former employer over a grievance with his management team.
John O'Neill, 61, from Kilbrittain in County Cork, captured two rats and released them into the Cork County Council offices at Rathbeg, Kinsale on February 9, 2021. The rats caused more than €3,000 worth of damage over a four-day period before they were captured and killed.
O'Neill pleaded guilty at the Bandon District Court to offenses contrary to section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act 1991.
Sergeant Paul Kelly told the court that O'Neill had a grievance with a member of management at the council office in Kinsale and outlined how he went about capturing two rats before releasing them in the office on the morning of February 9.
Cork County Council had to hire pest control to exterminate the rats and the court heard that Rentokill trapped and killed the two rats on February 12.
Council employees became suspicious about how the rats gained entry to the building and contacted local gardaí, who subsequently began an investigation into the incident, according to a report in the Irish Times.
Detective Garda Michael Brosnan of Kinsale Garda Station, who led the investigation, obtained CCTV footage that showed O'Neill reversing a van up to the office on February 9. The accused then removed an item from the van, covered it with his jacket, and entered the council office.
Brosnan arrested O'Neill on May 24 and brought him to Bandon Garda Station, where O'Neill admitted to capturing the rats and releasing them in the council office over a dispute with a member of the management team.
Sergeant Paul Kelly told the court that O'Neill cooperated fully with the garda investigation and expressed remorse for his actions during the interview and added that it would have been a difficult case to prosecute without his confession. He also said that O'Neill had no previous convictions.
Defense solicitor Diarmuid O'Shea said that his client recognized that his actions were "daft" and "incredibly stupid behavior".
O'Shea told the court that his client took the actions over a grievance with a member of management at the council offices, which had been building for some time and caused him to resign from his job.
The solicitor added that the dispute affected O'Neill's family life, ruining a family holiday in Portugal and impacting his sleep.
However, Judge James McNulty rejected O'Shea's claims that his clients had simply "flipped". The judge said that the offense was meticulously planned and added that O'Neill had several opportunities to reflect on his actions and recognize that it was "not a good idea" before releasing the rats in the building.
McNulty added that O'Neill's attempts to settle a grievance with one member of the council management impacted everyone who worked in the office.
He said that the offense was of "unique wickedness" and handed down a 12-month sentence with six months suspended due to mitigating factors, including O'Neill's cooperation with gardaí, apology, and age.
The judge also pointed to O'Neill's previous good character and the fact that the accused had paid €3,000 in compensation for the damage caused by the rats.