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Accused car thief 'under death threat' court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 21/10/2015

The accused was released on bail.
The accused was released on bail.

A teenager accused of crashing a stolen car during a high-speed bid to escape police is under death threat, the High Court heard today.

The 19-year-old from Derry has been warned factions in the city want to mete out their own form of justice for alleged anti-social behaviour, a judge was told.

He was also said to have been subjected to a previous so-called punishment shooting.

Details emerged as an anonymity order imposed to protect the defendant's right to life was maintained.

The accused faces charges of aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police and having no insurance or licence.

He was granted bail but banned from getting behind the wheel of a car.

The alleged offences relate to the theft of a Ford Galaxy from an address in the Republic of Ireland on September 1.

Police in Derry were then alerted to the vehicle, with two young men on board, in the Whitehouse Road area of the city.

Prosecutor Kate McKay said the car failed to stop despite the PSNI using sirens and flashing lights.

She claimed the pair in the Galaxy didn't seem to know how to drive it properly.

During a pursuit the stolen vehicle was travelling at speeds of up to 80mph, making sharp turns and screeching tyres, the court heard.

Mrs McKay said it left the road and crashed into a ditch after the driver lost control.

The alleged passenger, aged 14, was arrested at the scene.

But it was claimed that the 19-year-old fled before being detained later.

In police interviews he claimed to have bought the car that day for £150 after being told it was worth 3,000 euros, Mrs McKay added.

He denied being the driver when it as pursued and crashed.

Explaining why the anonymity order was granted at a previous court, defence counsel said his client is under threat.

"He had in the past suffered from gunshot wounds and police... served a notice on him that his life was in danger," the barrister told Mr Justice Maguire.

Although he accepted there were reasons for maintaining reporting restrictions in the case, the judge emphasised that the rules of open justice must normally apply.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Maguire banned the defendant from contacting his co-accused and ordered him to report to police twice a week.

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