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Release refused for accused who 'can’t stay out of trouble'

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 12/07/2016

A judge yesterday refused bail to an alleged car thief because he “cannot stay out of trouble”
A judge yesterday refused bail to an alleged car thief because he “cannot stay out of trouble”

A judge yesterday refused bail to an alleged car thief because he “cannot stay out of trouble”.

Newtownabbey man Gerard Hugh Anthony O’Neill is facing four charges over the alleged theft on a black Audi in March.

The High Court was told that the 25-year-old, from Abbeyglen Crescent, had a “shocking” criminal record with 89 convictions.

Mr Justice O’Hara also spoke of O’Neill’s history of breaching court orders and of offending while under suspended sentences, and said that the accused “does not adhere to any conditions placed on him”.

Crown barrister Kate McKay said that at around 11.30pm on March 14, police were alerted to a suspected stolen car being driven dangerously in the New Barnsley area of Belfast.

The Audi was observed being driven on the wrong side of the road, at up to speeds of 70mph, before it was abandoned in the St Agnes area.

The driver fled the vehicle, and a short time later O’Neill was apprehended hiding in a garden at St Agnes Drive in Andersonstown.

He displayed signs he had been drinking, but refused to provide a breath test.

The following morning, a resident of St Agnes Drive was putting items in her bin when she noticed woollen gloves and car keys inside it.

She contacted the PSNI, and the keys found in her bin fitted an Audi stolen from Templepatrick the previous evening.

When O’Neill was interviewed on March 15, he largely refused to comment. He did, however, claim that he bought the car for £1,200 using money from “the bru (benefits)”.

Mrs McKay said police objected to O’Neill’s release.

Revealing he was a disqualified driver with many previous convictions, she said he was granted bail in June to allow him to attend a funeral, but upon his return to prison, drugs were detected by a sniffer dog.

After the drugs were found in his room, O’Neill spent a period in solitary confinement.

Defence barrister Sean Mullan said his client maintained the claim that he bought the car, prompting Mr Justice O’Hara to ask the barrister: “Why would he buy a car for £1,200 when he is disqualified from driving?”

Mr Mullan also spoke of his client’s history with depression and anxiety.

Outlining the many breaches of legal orders and the defendant’s “shocking” record, Mr Justice O’Hara told the court: “If he got bail, further offences are inevitable. This man cannot stay out of trouble.”

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