The 15-year-old stole cars in Limerick city, Newcastle West, Shannon, Tralee and Tipperary town; caused numerous crashes, one of which badly injured a heavily pregnant woman; and in high speed chase at night “lost” a garda patrol car when he turned off his lights as he veered and swerved through country roads.
And Limerick Children’s Court was told that at times during these escapades, the boy was out on High Court bail.
As his notoriety grew among his friends so did the incidence of taking cars in the period between September 2010 and March 2011.
Judge Tom O’Donnell ordered the boy to be detained at St Patrick’s Institution for six months, backdated to last month when he was arrested. He was also put off the road for five years.
He said the accused had continued his involvement in taking cars and driving them at speed at an alarming rate.
When arrested after one incident, the boy was found with a bunch of filed down keys which he used to get into the cars and start them.
Many of the thefts took place from the car park at the Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick. Garda Niamh Biggs told the court the accused went there as he found it easy to steal cars in the packed car parks during the Christmas shopping period.
Insp Brendan McDonagh, outlining the litany of driving crimes in stolen cars, said that in one incident, the boy sped through Limerick city at night, pursued by a patrol car with its blue light flashing.
He ran red lights as he spend along the city streets, and oncoming cars had to take evasive action when he drove on the wrong side. The garda car also had to take evasive action as items were thrown from the speeding car.
He hit one oncoming car and after driving out onto country roads he turned off the lights of the car near Fedamore where the pursuing gardaí lost sight of stolen car.
His final escapade on March 12 last ended when he crashed into a car badly injuring the driver and his heavily pregnant wife, both of whom were hospitalised.
He has been held in St Patrick’s Institution since then.
Solicitor Muiris Gavin said the boy was 15 when he commenced his car stealing and was 16 when it ended.
The boy had no previous convictions and his detention in St Patrick’s Institution, he said, had been a wake-up call.
Mr Gavin said that at the time of the crimes the boy’s father was not around and he had got into trouble through a group he was hanging around with. They had egged him on as he gained notoriety.
Mr Gavin said the boy intended to live with his father outside of the country.
Judge O’Donnell said according to his calculations the multiplicity of crimes involved the taking of 25 cars, some of which the court heard were badly damaged or burned out.
Judge O’Donnell said that, having got High Court bail, the accused persisted with taking cars and involving himself in various escapades.
He recalled that in his court, when applying for bail, the boy denied in sworn evidence being involved in taking cars.
The judge said he had to take as extremely serious the fact that one driver and his pregnant wife were injured and removed to hospital after their car was hit by a car driven by the accused.
While the spirit of the Children’s Act was that a custodial sentence should only be imposed as a last resort, these cases were so serious that he would be failing in his responsibility if he did not impose a custodial sentence.