Man who tampered with lorry brakes causing £200k shopping centre smash jailed
A man who admitted tampering with the braking system of a parked lorry, causing it to career down a city centre street before it crashed to a halt into the side of the Foyleside Shopping Centre, was jailed for 18 months.
As a result of the actions carried out by Ryan Doherty (23) from Durrow Park in the Bogside area of Derry, just over £200,000 worth of damage was caused to properties and to a parked car.
As well as admitting tampering with the lorry's braking system, Doherty also pleaded guilty to causing damage to the Foyleside Shopping Centre, to the Primark Store, to a car, to fittings owned by Derry City And Strabane District Council and to property owned by Northern Ireland Transport.
At Londonderry Magistrates' Court on Friday, a solicitor for the Public Prosecution Service told District Judge Barney McElholm that on September 11, 2016, the driver of an articulated lorry with a trailer attached parked in Linenhall Street to carry out deliveries to the nearby Poundland Store in Ferryquay Street.
The lorry was facing downhill in the direction of Newmarket Street. The driver was standing beside the vehicle waiting for his helper to return from the Poundland Store when he saw the lorry moving downhill.
The driver, who is the subject of a separate prosecution in relation to the same incident, ran after the lorry as it turned into Newmarket Street where it hit street furniture as well as a parked car before crashing to a halt into the side entrance of the Foyleside Shopping Centre.
Investigating police officers viewed CCTV footage of the incident. The footage showed three youths approaching the parked lorry.
One of them, the defendant, was seen pushing a button inside the lorry's cab and the vehicle then rolled down hill. As part of their evidence gathering the police officers compiled photographs of the three youths, one of whom was later identified as the defendant. He was arrested and interviewed on November 15, 2016, and he made a no comment interview.
The prosecutor said damage caused to property owned by the council amounted to £2,558. Damage caused to the Primark Store amounted to £9,365 and the damage caused to the parked car totalled £1,400.
The damage caused to the entrance of the Foyleside Shopping Centre totalled £59,000 and £2,400 worth of damage was caused to the lorry and £4,200 of damage caused to the trailer. An additional £96,000 worth of damage was caused to property owned by Transport Northern Ireland.
Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said the financial damage caused by Doherty was colossal.
"This is jail, immediate jail, every day of the week. He knows he is going to jail and he has come to court prepared for that", he told the District Judge.
Mr Mooney said the button pressed by Doherty was the primary braking system of the lorry and he said the back up system had not been applied by the driver.
"One can only have sympathy for the driver," he added.
"This was an act of utter recklessness I do not think the defendant could have foreseen the consequences of his actions. It was not his hope and desire that the lorry would end up embedded in the Foyleside Shopping Centre", he said.
The defence barrister said in mitigation Doherty had pleaded guilty to the offences, days before his contested hearing which would have involved 15 prosecution witnesses and two expert witnesses. He said Doherty, who was jailed in March 2017 for six months for public order offences, did not brazen it out.
Mr McElholm said he would give Doherty a 25% discount for pleading guilty and he jailed Doherty for eighteen months and fined him £500.
"This was an absolutely disgraceful thing to do. He could have killed somebody," he said.
"If anybody had been in the path of this lorry they would have been mown down. It had the impact of causing over £200,000 of damage but he did not think about that when he let the brake off.
"Obviously he thought it was funny but it was not in the slightest bit funny", the District Judge said.
Belfast Telegraph Digital