Man who caused over €500k of damage and loss of earnings to toll system on M50 jailed
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.
This offending occurred two days after the Grenfell Towers disaster in which over 70 people lost their lives. Earlier Rochford had tried to make a statement about his concerns in relation to the 2002 fire at the Verdemont Apartments but felt he was getting “the run around” from gardai.
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 over the motorway 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.
Rochford, of Steeple Manor, Trim, pleaded guilty to criminal damage to the eFlow toll collection system, property of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, at the eFlow toll gantry on the M50 north bound on June 16, 2017.
He has two previous convictions for public order matters which arose in relation to his belief that there were public health concerns about the installation of a certain type of water meter.
Judge Martin Nolan said that 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 seems to be a very committed person and many people had good things to say about him
He said Rochford had no complaint with eFlow but had caused them considerable harm. He said Rochford had committed the offence with malice and forethought in bringing implements with him.
Judge Nolan took into account the mitigating circumstances, Rochford's motivation and personal circumstances and imposed a two and a half year custodial sentence.