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Teenager narrowly missed schoolchidren during high speed police chase in stolen car

Police recover a stolen car following a pursuit ending in the Leeson Street area of west Belfast on January 10th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Police recover a stolen car following a pursuit ending in the Leeson Street area of west Belfast on January 10th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

By Christopher Woodhouse

A teenager narrowly missed a group of schoolchildren during a high speed chase with police in a stolen car.

The details emerged as a 17-year-old appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court today on 11 charges.

They include stealing a vehicle, causing damage to the vehicle and property as well as dangerous driving, driving without a license and insurance.

Opposing bail, a police officer told the court that on Friday morning a man started his car outside his east Belfast home and left it running to defrost the windows.

The owner then went back into his house where he heard a screeching sound and when he went outside his car was gone.

Around 20 minutes later the car was spotted at Tate’s Avenue in the south of the city and officers from the specialist Auto Crime Team were radioed and gave chase.

The officer told the court the speeds involved ranged between 30mph and 60mph, with the teen allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road and mounting the kerb.

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At one point the car narrowly missed a group of schoolchildren who were walking on the pavement and wearing hi-vis vests.

The chase came to an end when police collided with the car to stop it in west Belfast and the teenager was arrested near Dunville Park.

The officer said the accused has no experience of driving and posed a serious risk to himself and the public.

His solicitor told District Judge Oonagh Mullan his client denied being the driver of the car and challenged police claims he could be identified on dash cam footage from the police car.

However the officer read from the statements of two officers involved in the pursuit who said they both saw the accused driving the car at a distance between four and five metres.

His solicitor told the court the teen claims he was out for a walk at the time of his arrest as he could not sleep and adamantly denies being involved in the alleged offences.

He argued that he ought to be released on bail as forensic tests on his clothes could take months during which he would be custody.

Judge Mullan released the teen on bail on conditions of not being in a private car except as a back seat passenger and subject to a curfew between 9pm and 8am.

He also must report to police once a week and is due back in the youth court on February 7.

A second 17-year-old has been charged with a number of offences including aggravated vehicle taking. He is expected to appear at Belfast YOuth Court on Monday January 13.

As is usual procedure the charges will be reviewed.

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