Saturday 21 April 2018

Dad jailed for setting fire to cars he couldn't steal

By Sonya McLean

A father of one who set fire to two cars when he wasn’t able to steal them has been sentenced to three years, with the final 15 months suspended.

Gareth Colley (23) was already “miffed” that he couldn’t get a taxi to accept him as a passenger when he was wandering around in a drunken state.

He told gardaí he hadn’t a clue where he was and tried to break into the vehicles. He said when he wasn’t able to drive off in the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Micra, he set fire to the car seat covers with a lighter.

Colley, of Convent Lawns, Ballyfermot, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two charges of arson and attempting to unlawfully take a car on March 23, 2014.

His 52 previous convictions included criminal damage, road traffic, drug, theft and public order offences, and had all been dealt with in the District Court.

Judge Desmond Hogan said the offences represented “the wanton destruction of two people’s cars by someone who is out of his head on drink and possibly drugs”.

He said Colley was “miffed” because a taxi wouldn’t give him a lift and noted that he had 10 previous convictions for criminal damage. “He has a propensity to damage property,” Judge Hogan said before he suspended the final 15 months of a three year sentence.

Garda Eoin McDonnell told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting, that he had been called to the scene on Dodder Terrace in Ringsend and discovered a Ford Fiesta engulfed in flames.

He was then alerted to the fact that a second vehicle, a Micra, was on fire at a nearby George Reynolds House flat complex.

A witness to this second incident was able to provide gardaí with a description of the culprit which included the fact that there was orange writing on the back of the man’s black jacket.

The description was circulated to other officers before a taxi driver told gardaí that he had spotted a man fleeing to an underground carpark of an apartment complex.

Colley was later found there and arrested. There was a strong smell of smoke from him and his clothing. 

Gda McDonnell said he was initially deemed too drunk to be questioned but was interviewed three hours later.

Colley said he had been arrested earlier that night after getting into a brawl. He said he didn’t know where he was when he was later released.

“To be honest I hadn’t a clue where I was. I was walking around in circles trying to get a taxi and I decided to take a car,” he told gardaí and admitted that it was “a very stupid thing to do”.

Gda McDonnell agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending, that the cars were not specifically targeted but chosen at random.

He accepted that Colley had been abusing alcohol and cannabis as a youth before moving onto prescription medication and heroin.

Mr Rea told Judge Hogan that his client, a father to a three year old daughter, had been struggling to deal with his addiction problem but has been attending a treatment centre since the beginning of this month.

He said his client has “underlying problems” that this centre are not equipped to deal with and it is Colley’s “earnest wish” to move on for residential drug treatment.

Mr Rea said the “dangers” of his offending behaviour were huge and Colley is “gravely concerned about what he did”.

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