A 29-year-old man who robbed a number of elderly people in Co Kerry over a three-year period has been given a five year jail sentence.

John Houlihan, of Douglas, Killorglin, Co Kerry pleaded guilty to 11 counts of burglary between January 2010 and January 2014.

He broke into the homes of a number of people aged between 71 and 91, some of them neighbours of his family.

Some of the victims had been present during the robberies.

The court heard that the incidents had had a major psychological affect and that some of the victims have lost forever the feeling of security in their own homes.

In one instance Houlihan accosted an elderly man in his bedroom  and demanded money with menace, set fire to the man’s bed sheet and kicked a torch out of his hand.

The accused also pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually assaulting a young woman.

He first assaulted her in a nightclub and then followed her home before breaking in through a bathroom window and sexually assaulted her in her bed.

He told gardaí that the woman had invited him to her house, but CCTV footage showed this to be untrue.

The court heard Houlihan had written a letter expressing his remorse and shame at his actions and that the offences were carried out to feed a serious gambling addiction.

He came from a very good family who had been traumatised by the events.

Sentencing him at Limerick Circuit Court Judge Carroll Moran said the experiences of the elderly vulnerable people who lived alone in remote areas is a particularly nasty crime and one which the courts have a duty to stamp upon.

He imposed a seven year sentence suspending the final two years.