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Carjacking victims forced to drive from Castlebar to Ballinrobe

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Young woman and man traumatised after terrifying 30k journey


A BALLINROBE man who imprisoned a young woman and a young man in their car and ordered them to drive from Castlebar to Ballinrobe was told the extent of his sentence will depend on how he avails of drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Michael Cleary (27) of 22 Lough Mask, Ballinrobe, pleaded guilty to unlawful seizure of a car and false imprisonment of a female on January 23, 2015. A co-accused, Michael Sweeney of 2 Corr na gCloch, Ballinrobe, also pleaded guilty to unlawful seizure of a car and false imprisonment of a male on the same date, but he failed to appear in court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
Sergeant Greg Fleming explained that the female, who was 19 at the time, and the male, who was 20, were in a car in Tesco carpark in Castlebar around midnight when the two accused jumped into the car.
They told the two frightened victims to take them to Ballinrobe and threatened to slash the face of the male. When they got to Ballinrobe, they were told to bring them to a housing estate.
Mr Cleary took the female’s phone and used it to phone his wife before grabbing her hand, which he started to kiss.
When the two men got out of the car, the victims drove to Castlebar and reported the incident to the Gardaí. Sgt Fleming said the two men referred to each other by their nicknames in the car and this is how they were identified.
When Mr Cleary was arrested he denied any knowledge of the incident but Mr Sweeney admitted being in the car.

Traumatised
In victim impact statements that were read to the court, the two victims highlighted how the incident has had a negative impact on their lives. Both said they feel vulnerable and now always lock the doors when they sit into a car.
The female, who is now 21 and a student in Limerick, said she would cry as she drove to college and started to drift from her friends because nobody understood what she was going through. She explained that reliving the incident as part of the victim impact statement was one of the most difficult things she has done and resulted in sleepless nights.
The court heard that Mr Cleary had 99 previous convictions and is currently serving a prison sentence.
Mr Michael Miley, BL for Mr Cleary, said his client was very remorseful for what happened and that on the night he and Sweeney had been ‘out of their heads on drink and drugs’. He said they were stranded in Castlebar and wanted to get home, admitting they should have done what every right-minded person would have done and hailed a taxi.
He said Mr Cleary was married and that his first child was stillborn, which affected him badly. Mr Miley added that his client has a problem with alcohol and drugs and asked that his sentence be structured to allow him to seek treatment. Mr Cleary also had €1,000 in court as compensation.
Judge Rory MacCabe told Cleary that if he was ready to commit to drug rehabilitation and deal with his problems, he was prepared to grant him bail to attend a rehabilitation centre. He pointed out that the defendant had been given chances in the past and not taken them, and explained that the extent of his sentence will depend on how he gets on with his treatment.
Sentencing was adjourned until November 1 in Galway Circuit Court, where Mr Cleary is to appear on a separate charge.