A MOTORIST has admitted repeatedly driving away from petrol stations without paying for fuel while in breach of the Covid-19 regulations.
Richard Kiely (29) was spared jail for 13 Covid law breaches and 20 drive-offs from garages across two counties after a court heard he was stealing to fund his cocaine use and drug debt.
Judge Gerard Jones gave him a four-month suspended sentence, banned him from driving for two years and warned he would be going to jail "for a very long time" if he was caught again.
Kiely, of Ballyowen Lane, Lucan, pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to 20 charges of making off from garages in Dublin and Kildare without paying for fuel, and a further 13 counts of breaching the Health Act.
Judge Jones was told the case had been before the court previously, the accused had pleaded guilty and had €850 in compensation for the various victims.
The court heard some of the "drive-offs" happened after the Covid-19 restrictions came into effect. A garda said the accused had been driving a 181-registered grey Sloka Octavia and on one of the occasions, Kiely "altered the registration plate of the car in an effort to get away with it."
The court heard he sold fuel on to pay off a drug debt and feed his drug habit.
Kiely had 11 previous convictions for motoring charges and other offences. The gardai sought a driving ban for the accused as he had used his vehicle in the course of the thefts.
The accused had been using cocaine and hiding it from family members, his solicitor Simon Fleming. He began "robbing Peter to pay Paul." Mr Fleming asked the judge not to impose a disqualification.
"He's a very lucky man he's not getting 10 months in prison," the judge said, adding "that is where he'll be if he carries on" offending.
The judge said the accused was a "serial offender" and "I'm going to keep him on a very shot leash, and he will go to prison for a very long time if he re-offends."
Kiely's "days of driving into petrol stations" and driving off without paying for petrol were over, he said.
He sentenced the accused to four months in prison but suspended it for two years, and banned him from driving for two years.
The court heard the accused had also been charged with further offences but they pre-dated the charges he had already pleaded guilty to. The court heard his reply after caution to these was "I'm sorry."
Mr Fleming asked for a plea of guilty to be noted in these cases too and they were adjourned to a later date. The judge said he wanted "every penny of compensation paid."
He granted bail on the new charges on condition Kiely does not drive a car, stays away from all petrol stations and adheres to the Covid-19 regulations. The accused's father was approved as an independent surety for bail.