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West Belfast man jailed over £30k ram raid of men's clothing store

By Ashleigh McDonald

A west Belfast man was handed a five-year sentence on Tuesday for his involvement in the early morning ram raid of a men's clothing store.

Patrick O'Rawe was informed he will spend half his sentence in prison, followed by two and a half years on licence when he is released from custody, after he admitted four charges arising from the incident.

The 26-year-old, from Albert Street, was part of a gang that ram-raided Rio Menswear at Wellington Place and stole expensive clothing which was never recovered.

Belfast Crown Court heard the total loss to the business owner - including the value of the stolen clothes and damage caused to the premises - amounted to just over £30,000.

Saying ram-raiding was a serious offence which required deterrent sentences, Judge Patricia Smyth branded the incident as "an afront to the public".

The court heard that around 3am on September 20, 2015, a stolen car with false number plates was driven into the window of the clothes store.

Following the ram raid and theft, the stolen vehicle was driven a short distance from the city centre to Divis Street, where it was crashed into a lamppost and abandoned. Damage was caused to the central reservation as well as to a basket pole and plant holder.

O'Rawe was linked to the car after his DNA was located on the driver's airbag, which inflated when the car collided with the lamppost.

Judge Smyth accepted that while O'Rawe was driving the car after the ram raid, there was no evidence to suggest he had been behind the wheel during the ram raid, but rather he was a passenger. He did, however, plead guilty to burgling Rio Menswear and stealing clothes, as well as three driving offences.

Passing sentence, the Judge spoke of O'Rawe's "relevant record for burglary and theft" and the cost to the business owner, branding the ram raid as "pre-planned and pre-meditated".

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