A chef who became homeless decided to live in Dublin Airport and turned to stealing there, a court heard.
Father-of-one Jacek Huba (43) went to “reside” in the airport for two months when his personal life “spiralled out of control” after road crash injuries forced him out of his job.
He was arrested when he was caught stealing a bag from a tourist at the airport.
Judge Paula Murphy jailed him for three months.
Huba pleaded guilty to theft when he appeared at Dublin District Court.
Speaking to Independent.ie last night, campaigner for the homeless Fr Peter McVerry said that he was aware of other homeless people previously sleeping at the airport and has even encouraged it at times.
“Homeless people sleep in the airport as it’s dry, warm and there’s always activity going on. I sometimes advise people to go there, as the alternative is sleeping in a doorway,” he said.
“The airport is more comfortable.”
A Dublin Airport spokesman said he would not comment on a specific case which had recently come before the courts, but regarding Fr McVerry’s comments, he said: “It’s not common for homeless people to sleep at the airport.”
In court, Garda Linda Woods told Judge Murphy that Huba stole a bag with €200 in cash in it at Terminal 2 in the airport last March 26.
He was stopped by airport police, who called gardai.
Huba was heavily intoxicated at the time of the theft, his lawyer said. He exercised his right to be silent, but was co-operative with gardai in other ways, he added.
He had 23 previous convictions, three of which were for similar offences.
The accused was “residing at the airport at the time”, his lawyer said.
Huba had arrived in Ireland from Poland 14 years ago and had lived “in and around Portlaoise”. He had worked as a chef at restaurants in Tullamore, Co Offaly, Newbridge, Co Kildare, and in Co Carlow, maintaining employment throughout the recession.
However, in 2018, he was in a serious car accident and could no longer work as a chef due to his injuries, his lawyer said.
From that moment on, a “serious pall of depression” came over him and alcohol became an issue. He also experimented with drugs and his relationship with his partner broke down.
He had nowhere to live and found himself homeless, so he made the decision to travel to Dublin Airport and remain there, residing overnight for two months “as a homeless individual”.
Moving there got him out of the vicinity where people knew him so they would not “witness him being homeless”, his lawyer added.
The theft was carried out by someone who was “destitute, saw an opportunity and took advantage”. He saw the person’s bag with an envelope and money, the court heard.
Huba was in custody when his case came before the court and was working in the prison kitchen. He was serving a sentence with a release date in November.
The accused had maintained contact with his partner and child and was “keen to remove himself from custody and be a better example for his child”, his lawyer said.
Commenting last night, Fr McVerry said: “Jailing isn’t the answer. Homeless people get jailed far more easily than people who are not homeless.
“This guy should have received help rather than be jailed; it’s not the solution.
“But the irony is a lot of homeless people feel they’re better off in prison.
“They know they’ll have three meals a day, a bed for the night, all their medical needs looked after.
“These days some people are more terrified of coming out of prison than going into prison.”