A man who stole a BMW car from the Garda impound yard at Castlebar Garda Station was given the benefit of a suspended sentence when he appeared before Castlebar Circuit Court last week.
The court heard that the accused, Mark Keane, had made his way into the yard to steal a BMW car in order to deliver it to a contact in Sligo for a fee of €1,500 and that he was under duress to do so.
Sergeant Peter Hanley of Castlebar Garda Station told the court that Keane, with an address of 31, Ashbrook, Oranmore, Co Galway, stole the car from the impound yard on December 16, 2008. The car had been stolen from a Galway address on December 3 that year but Gardaí discovered the car parked in Hoban’s Car Park in Castlebar on December 13 and towed it to the station’s impound yard.
However, in the early hours of December 16, Keane went to the yard three times. The court heard that after the second visit, he went away and drank a bottle of vodka before returning at approximately 6am and sleeping in the car.
When the yard gates opened to let a bin lorry enter, Keane was observed driving out the gates at speed. He was later arrested for handling stolen property and for the theft from the Garda Station.
Defending barrister Diarmuid Connolly said that it was clearly a ‘very stupid’ act to steal from a Garda yard with so many CCTV cameras but that if his aim was to steal any car, he would have went elsewhere but he was under ‘a certain duress’ to steal this car and deliver it to Sligo.
Mr Connolly added that Keane subsequently left Ireland for Spain out of fear of the people in Sligo whom he had failed to deliver the BMW to and that was why this case took so long to come before the courts.
Mr Connolly also told the court that a prison sentence was an ‘onerous and dangerous’ proposition for Keane as two cousins of his wife were in there for three and a half years each after being found guilty of a violent assault against Keane in May, 2008.
Detective Sergeant William Byrne from Galway Garda Station gave evidence to the court that Keane had married into the travelling community and the liaison was strongly resisted by his wife’s family and that his had led to the assault. He added that Keane was a pleasant man to deal with when he wasn’t using drugs or drinking and that he was dedicated to his wife, Anna Ward.
Diarmuid Connolly also told the court that the couple have a child which suffers from gastroschisis where the bowel is outside the body and that a prison sentence would also present a difficulty for the family in this regard. He added that the probation services feel there is a role they can play in assisting Keane and asked Judge Thomas E O’Donnell to test Keane’s bona fides with a longer sentence than usual, but to suspend it with strict terms.
Acknowledging the probation report, a psychiatric report and the family circumstances, Judge O’Donnell said that while Keane had 53 previous convictions and this was an ‘audacious’ theft, he was encouraged by steps taken by the defendant. He was sentenced to two 20 month jail terms, to run concurrent, in respect of each charge. Both sentences were suspended for two years on a bond of good behaviour. He added that the probation services had liberty to re-enter the matter at 72 hours notice should Keane not engage properly with them.