News Courts

Saturday 19 January 2019

Activist who damaged toll system jailed for two years

Gillian Wall, the sister of Tony Rochford, protests against his conviction outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins
Gillian Wall, the sister of Tony Rochford, protests against his conviction outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins

Fiona Ferguson

A Meath man who caused over half a million euro in damage and loss of earnings to the eFlow toll collection system on the M50 has been jailed for two and a half years.

Tony Rochford (50) climbed up on the gantry spanning the M50 where he cut wires and smashed sensors, putting the toll collection system out of action for 26 hours and closing the motorway northbound for three hours last June.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard he was motivated by a hope to attract media attention to his concerns about the role of construction failures in a fire at a Blanchardstown apartment complex in which two people died.

The offence occurred two days after the Grenfell Towers disaster in which more than 70 people lost their lives.

Previously, Rochford had tried to make a statement to gardaí about his concerns about the 2002 fire at the Verdemont Apartments but felt they were giving him "the run-around".

Rochford, of Steeple Manor, Trim, pleaded guilty to criminal damage at the eFlow toll gantry on the M50 north bound on June 16, 2017. He has two previous convictions for public order matters.

Tony Rochford
Tony Rochford

Rochford admitted he had snipped wires, smashed sensors and damaged fuses after climbing the gantry. He had posted videos to Facebook and Twitter outlining the reasons for his actions. Garda Gemma Collins climbed the gantry to talk Rochford into coming down.

"This is very much an exceptional case, very much an exceptional man and very much exceptional circumstances" said Rosin Lacey SC, defending Rochford.

Ms Lacey said Rochford had felt he was not being listened to and was frustrated. She handed in letters from Rochford's former wife and from the mother of one of the victims of the fatal fire in Blanchardstown, who described Rochford as "a voice for those who can not speak."

She said he was a passionate, complex man who believed that people could have been exposed to risk as a result of bad workmanship and inadequate building regulation.

Judge Martin Nolan said Rochford had been motivated to climb the gantry to highlight his frustrations and call attention to his complaints in relation to the Verdemont fire.

He noted Rochford seemed to be a very committed person. He said Rochford had no complaint with eFlow but had caused it considerable harm.

Judge Nolan took into account the mitigating circumstances, Rochford's motivation and personal circumstances and imposed a two-and-a-half year custodial sentence.

Irish Independent

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