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Thug who torched car dealership escapes jail

THIS is the man who escaped prison for an arson attack which destroyed 11 vehicles, damaged 17 others and caused €280,000 worth of damage to a car dealership.

The co-owner of the Ford dealership that was set alight in the attack has told of how he feels let down by the justice system after one of the perpetrators escaped jail time.

Patrick Harcourt, of Dunne Street Flats, Dublin 1, received a three-year suspended sentence for his role in the arson attack.

He pleaded guilty to causing damage by fire to vehicles and property at Fort Motors, Walkinstown.

CCTV footage showed the 22-year-old, who has 12 previous convictions for minor offences, pull up outside the dealership in his Volkswagen Passat minutes before the attack at midnight on March 12, 2007.

One of his passengers is then seen emerging from Mr Harcourt's car with a petrol container entering the dealership and fleeing moments later.



Uninsured

Cyril Molloy who is part-owner of the dealership with his brother Paul, which has been in their family for more than five decades claimed that there were "uninsured losses of about another €100,000" that were not included in the court estimate of €280,000.

"It sends a very clear signal to those people who mean harm that they can go and do what they like and even if they are caught red-handed they will walk free," he said.

"Arson is a very serious crime, and such was the extent of the damage that I don't think you could have a more serious arson attack, barring somebody getting killed. The criminal-justice system has effectively ignored us as victims.

"There is nothing we can do. That's the criminal-justice system we have in this country."

Judge Patricia Ryan said the court took in to account the serious nature of the charge and the dire financial consequences it had for Fort Motors, which has been in operation for more than five decades.

She said the court had noted Harcourt's particular personal circumstances, where his drug addict mother died in 2001 leaving his sister, who was 15 years old at the time, to raise him.

In suspending his sentence, Judge Ryan said the court had regard to Harcourt's good employment record, his standing in the community, his early plea of guilty and the testimonials to his good character submitted to the court.

Patrick Marrinan, defending, submitted that his client agreed to take part as getaway driver "on the spur of the moment" to clear a drug debt, placing his involvement "at minimum level".

Mr Marrinan submitted to Judge Ryan that his client started taking drugs because of his friend's death around the time of the offence, but that he's now clean and in to keeping fit.



Destroyed

Sgt Butler revealed that 11 vehicles were completely destroyed in the blaze, 17 others suffered various damage and the building received €46,348 damage.

He said the 50-year-old dealership, which employs over 50 people, suffered a total loss of €284,202 and its insurance cost has since risen to €250,000.

hnews@herald.ie


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