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Pair torched speed van with operator inside

THIS is the scene of devastation caused by two men who set fire to a speed van while the operator was inside.

The two 20-year-olds who were responsible for the reckless arson attack have been given seven-year suspended sentences after pleading guilty at Wexford Circuit Court yesterday.

At an earlier court hearing it emerged the men set fire to the van as a practical joke after buying €3 worth of petrol.


Martin Gowan, of Bolaney, Hollyfort, Gorey, Co Wexford, and Darragh Byrne, of Pine Cottage, Kilmurray, Gorey, Co Wexford, pleaded guilty to causing damage by fire to a speed van at Gorey on March 13, 2011.

Garda Sgt Ray Heffernan told the court that the speed van was located near Gorey where it was operating a speed check.

The operator of the vehicle, John McDonald, was inside the back of the van carrying out the speed operation when he smelled something burning.

He managed to escape through the side of the van unharmed, but was clearly shocked when he realised the vehicle had been set alight.

Sgt Heffernan said passing motorists saw what was happening and alerted gardai.

They also gave gardai a description of the men they believed set the van on fire.

The duo were later arrested and made full admissions.

Sgt Heffernan told the court that Mr McDonald had since given up working in this job, but that his decision was not related to this incident.

Aidan Doyle, defending both the men, said that there was a very impressive and favourable probation and welfare report on Gowan before the court.

Gowan had spent the entire summer doing a significant amount of work on the primary school in his area and had continued that work on a voluntary basis at weekends since the school had reopened.

He also undertook voluntary work two to three days per week with an undertaker.

The probation officer, he said, was impressed with Gowan, who had co-operated fully.

Since his last appearance in court, Byrne had been involved in community work, raising ¤30,000 for charity.


He also had got himself involved in voluntary work.

Sentencing, Judge Thomas Teehan said he was satisfied there was genuine remorse.

He imposed a sentence of seven years in prison but suspended the sentence for seven years on condition that both defendants enter a bond of €100 to keep the peace.

"You can consider yourselves very lucky. Your liberty for seven years is now in your own hands," Judge Teehan told the defendants.