Men sentenced over speed van fire


TWO 20-YEAR-OLD Wexford men who set fire to a speed van while the operator was inside have been given seven-year suspended prison sentences.

Martin Gowan, Bolaney, Hollyfort, Gorey, Co Wexford, and Darragh Byrne, Pine Cottage, Kilmurray, Gorey, Co Wexford, pleaded guilty to causing damage by fire to a speed van, which was the property of Road Safety Operations Ireland, at Gorey on March 13th, 2011, when they appeared before Judge Thomas Teehan at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

Both defendants also pleaded guilty to damaging the speed van by fire on the same occasion.

Prosecuting counsel Philip Sheahan told the court that both defendants had pleaded guilty to the offences at a previous sitting of the court.

Garda Sgt Ray Hefferan told of the speed van having been located near Gorey where it was operating a speed check at the time.

The operator of the vehicle, John McDonald, was inside the back of the van carrying out the speed operation when he suddenly smelled something burning.

He managed to escape through the side of the van unharmed but was clearly shocked when he realised the vehicle had been set alight.

Replying to defence counsel, Aidan Doyle SC, for both accused, Sgt Heffernan said Mr McDonald had since given up working in this job but it was not related to this incident. Mr Doyle said that in relation to Gowan there is a very impressive and favourable probation and welfare report before the court.

Gowan, had spent the entire summer doing a significant amount of work on the primary school in his area and had continued that work on a voluntary basis at weekends since the school had reopened.

He also undertook work on two to three days per week with a funeral undertaker in Gorey on a voluntary basis.

The probation officer, he said, was impressed with Gowan and the fact that he had co-operated fully.

Since his last appearance in court Byrne had been involved in community work, raising a significant amount of cash for charity, having raised the sum of €30,000 following a charity rally.

He also had got himself considerably involved in voluntary work.

In passing sentence, Judge Teehan said he was satisfied there was genuine remorse and both had apologised.

He imposed a sentence of seven years in prison but would suspend the seven years sentence for seven years on condition that both defendants enter a bond of €100 to keep the peace for seven years.

“You can consider yourselves very lucky.

“Your liberty for seven years is now in your own hands,” Judge Teehan told the defendants.