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Knife-wielding Belfast thug Cassidy given five years for attempted car hijack

By John Cassidy

A man who held a 12in knife to the throat of a driver as he tried to hijack a car has been jailed for five years.

Michael Thomas Cassidy (22), from the Antrim Road in north Belfast, had pleaded guilty to charges of attempted hijacking, theft of a £100 pair of sunglasses and attempted wounding.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that the offences took place in the early hours of June 13, 2016 in Newcastle, Co Down.

Prosecuting lawyer Laura Ivers said the victim was sitting in his Volkswagen Golf at Donard Park in the town when he was approached by Cassidy after two female friends had left him to get into their own car around 2.50am.

The two females were startled when they noticed Cassidy lying on the ground behind the car and one of them "let out a scream".

Ms Ivers told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that initially the conversation between Cassidy and the car driver was pleasant.

But events quickly turned nasty when Cassidy, who was intoxicated, tried to open the passenger door before reaching in through the driver's window to try and remove the keys from the ignition.

When that failed, the court heard, the defendant produced a 12in blade, held it to the throat of the driver and told him: "Give me the keys or I will stab you."

The driver still refused to hand over his keys and Judge Kerr was told that Cassidy then "lunged" at the driver, and tried to stab him in the stomach. "Fortunately," said the prosecutor, "the knife did not make contact with the driver."

After stealing a pair of £100 sunglasses belonging to the driver's mother, Cassidy went towards the boot of the car and shouted: "Where's the dough? Where's the dough?"

"It was at this point the victim was able to drive off," said Ms Ivers.

Cassidy's DNA was found on the car key fob by police and a month later he was arrested but gave a no comment interview to police questions.

The court heard that at the time of the offences, Cassidy was on licence and had only been released from prison one month earlier.

The defendant had previously been jailed for robbing an off licence in Belfast's Cromac Street in April 2013 armed with a baseball bat and wearing a pink pillowcase over his head in a bid to hide his identity.

During that incident, he made off with £140 in cash. But he was so drunk that he struggled to get away and even dropped the baseball bat as he tried to open the door.

Defence barrister Jon Paul Shields told the court yesterday that Cassidy "takes full responsibility for his actions and expresses some degree of regret and at the time he was completely under the influence of drugs".

Judge Gordon Kerr QC said Cassidy "could have caused a fatal injury to the young person who was the victim of this attempted hijacking".

Cassidy committed the offence just one month after he was freed from jail on licence.

"Giving all of those matters, the appropriate sentence will be three years in custody," said Judge Kerr. "Because you were found to be a danger to the public, you will receive an extended custodial sentence of two years, making a global sentence of five years."

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