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Pair jailed after 'smash-and-grab' ram raid on Lisburn Road clothes shop

Two men have been jailed for the roles they played in a "series of burglaries, thefts and aggravated driving offences" which included a ram raid.

The pair - a 26-year old man and a youth - were told that their actions in the early hours of September 26, 2015 put members of the public at risk.

While Patrick O'Rawe, from Albert Street in Belfast, was handed a 13 and a half month sentence, his co-accused was given three years.

Belfast Crown Court heard on Tuesday that they were part of a four-man gang.

Events unfolded when two cars were stolen during a break-in at a house in Holywood - although there was no evidence that the pair were involved.

However, the two stolen cars - a Ford Puma and a Ford Focus - were involved a short time later in a ram raid on a clothes shop in the Lisburn Road area of Belfast.

The Puma rammed the shop window and four men were seen running from the premises carrying armfuls of clothing. Garments amounting to £26,000 were taken during the burglary - none of which were recovered or fit for re-sale.

The gang left the Ford Puma at the scene and fled in the stolen Focus which was driven by O'Rawe. Not long after the ram raid, the Focus collided with another vehicle on the Cliftonville Road, which ended up on its roof.

A prosecutor told the court that the driver of the second vehicle sustained serious injuries in the early morning smash.

The four people in the stolen vehicle ran from the car after the collision, and while the youth was detained after being found sitting on the kerb between two parked cars, O'Rawe - who fled the scene - was arrested after his blood was recovered from the airbag of the Focus.

The youth was linked to the break-in after a fragment of glass found on his clothing matched the glass from the window of the clothes shop.

O'Rawe - who has 84 previous convictions - admitted being the driver of the Focus and later admitted offences including aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to another vehicle, and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

The youth, who has amassed 39 convictions, admitted being a passenger in both stolen cars, and of breaking into the clothes shop.

Sean O'Hare, the barrister representing O'Rawe, said his client "expresses to the court the remorse he feels for his behaviour" and has accepted his offending was serious.

Mr O'Hare told the court O'Rawe's "litany of offending" was set against a background of drug consumption and mental health issues. He also revealed that whilst in custody, O'Rawe has used his time constructively and is participating in several courses.

Defence barrister Taylor Campbell said that when the offences were committed, his client was under the influence of drugs, and this drugs misuse "has been part of his life for the last few years."

He told the court that while the teenager left school with no qualifications, he was now attending daily education classes in Hydebank YOC.

Passing sentence, Judge Patricia Smyth told the pair: "The public was subjected to a series of burglaries, thefts and aggravated driving offences."

She also spoke of the "enormous trauma" caused to the driver of the vehicle involved in the collision, telling O'Rawe "you paid no regard for the safety of any members of the public who may have been injured or nearby."

Telling O'Rawe he will serve half his sentence in jail with the remainder on licence when he is released, Judge Smyth also banned him from driving for three years.

Turning to the youth, she told him: "If you do not tackle your addiction issues ... you will probably spend most of your adult life in prison." Judge Smyth told him he will spend 18 months of his sentence in the YOC, followed by 16 months on supervised licence.

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