Wednesday 16 October 2019

Fire fighter found guilty of handling car stolen in Clogherhead

A 44-year-old fireman found guilty of handling a stolen car has been sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence.

Alan Fealy, Barrack Street, Dundalk, was convicted by a jury of that offence last October when the matter was then adjourned for a probation report.

At the circuit criminal court last Tuesday that report and a number of testimonials were before Judge Patrick Quinn.

At the sentence hearing it was stated Fealy has been a firefighter for 20 years, stationed in Drogheda, and was also operating two garages, one from a yard at the family home on Marsh Road, Bellurgan, and the other on the old Newry Road, Dundalk.

Gda Pádraig O'Reilly gave evidence that gardaí had search warrants to search the two premises as well as the defendant's residence in Barrack Street.

On 15 January, 2016, at 68 Barrack Street, officers seized documentation and a mobile phone before Fealy accompanied them to Marsh Road where his ex-wife and four children live.

In a yard to the rear of the property was a grey Citroen C4 Picasso, which bore Northern Ireland registration plates, and raised suspicion.

It transpired this vehicle had been stolen from outside the owner's house in Clogherhead, four days earlier, on 11 January.

Gda O'Reilly continued there was a second car in the yard, a silver Citroen C4 Picasso which, apart from the colour, was identical to the suspect vehicle.

The silver car was missing an engine, gear box and other parts.

Alan Fealy was arrested at 10.40am.

He told gardaí a man who helped him in the garages said the grey car was left in for a service. He expressed shock at the discovery of this vehicle in the yard.

Gda O'Reilly pointed out when the lady whose Citroen was stolen went to buy a new car, the garage accepted the recovered vehicle as a trade-in. She is at a loss of €6,000.

Fealy also had a website at the time, selling cars and vans, the court heard.

He has no previous convictions.

Gda O'Reilly said the defendant was civil and courteous during the searches but was not in a position to give investigators any background information out of a fear for his own safety.

The garda continued he accepted this was out of character and believed it a 'one-off'. Fealy had not come to attention since.

Counsel for the accused, Jim McCullough, said his client had stopped trading in motors eighteen months ago having wound down the business in the meantime.

His Drogheda work colleagues had gathered €1,000 compensation for the lady whose car was stolen and he had put another €1,000 to that.

It was not the entire sum, but the defence said it was not aware of the full loss until a week ago.

However, prosecuting counsel Kevin Segrave said the loss was disclosed in advance of the trial, and there was nothing to prevent solicitors asking for clarification of the figure.

Mr McCullough continued Fealy discharges financial responsibility for his family, pays the mortgage, and his children are dependent on him. He doesn't live in the family home.

He left school at the Inter Cert stage and was apprenticed to a panel beater before joining the fire service in 1999. He works as a driver/firefighter.

A custodial sentence will have an adverse impact on his continued employment.

This incident is a source of deep shame for him as is the discredit he has brought on his own family.

The probation report indicates he is at a low-risk of re-offending. He can address full compensation for the injured party whose loss he is acutely aware of.

A booklet of testimonials was handed into court. Counsel outlined they are from the manager of the Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Seán O'Mahony's GFC, Quay Celtic FC, the Cross Cause charity, Fr. David McNamara, Redemptorist, Dundalk; Dealgan Boxing Club, the Watch Officers at the fire station, and a number of private individuals.

Judge Quinn remarked there would be greater weight to it if Alan Fealy had pleaded guilty.

Counsel said his client did contest the case. He accepts the verdict of the jury, and is aware of the lack of mitigation which exists without a guilty plea.

Counsel understood it is asking for a lot.

After adjourning his decision for three days, Judge Quinn was told last Friday that full compensation of €6,000 was available.

The judge remarked he wrestled with whether or not to impose a custodial sentence. The evidence of the garda tipped the scales.

A two-year suspended sentence was imposed.

Drogheda Independent