A man who used a stolen car to pick up a hitchhiker, then on the early stages of a world tour before driving off with his property, and the hitchhiker clinging to the car, has lost an appeal against his sentence.
Jake Breen (20), with an address at Beech Park, Tramore, Co Waterford, had pleaded guilty at Kilkenny Circuit Criminal Court to ten offences arising out of events that occurred in Carlow and Kilkenny on November 7, 2016.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan sentenced Breen to five years imprisonment with the final year suspended on February 15, 2017 and banned him from driving for ten years. The sentence was made consecutive to another sentence which expired in January 2018.
The three-judge Court of Appeal said it had no hesitation in dismissing his appeal today. (Monday).
Giving background, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Breen had been using a Toyota Land Cruiser on the day in question which had been taken some days earlier and fitted with false registration plates.
The vehicle picked up a hitchhiker, who was at the very early stages of a world tour and was anxious to go to Bennettsbridge to say goodbye to a friend. Quite soon into the journey, the vehicle was brought to a stop. The driver told the hitchhiker that his destination had been reached and the hitchhiker got out.
At that stage, the vehicle drove off with the hitchhiker’s property still inside. The hitchhiker was holding onto the side of the vehicle and was thrown to the ground. His injuries were, thankfully, minor, the judge said.
Gardai were called and the vehicle was encountered at a roundabout in Thomastown. At that stage there was an element of uncertainty as to whether the vehicle might have driven off accidentally. However, in response to the request to stop, the vehicle drove off at speed.
At Borris, in Co Carlow, gardai spotted the vehicle at the end of a laneway. It was driven directly at an unmarked Garda car in an “aggressive fashion”. It collided with the front of the car.
The driver attempted to get past the Garda car but was unsuccessful. It impacted the car again and reversed once more. At that stage, one of the detectives got out of the vehicle and drew his official firearm.
The two occupants of the Land Cruiser fled the scene and one of them, not Breen, was apprehended nearby. This lead the sentencing judge to comment on the value of Breen’s guilty plea because, as he had put it, once his co-accused had been apprehended, Breen’s “goose was cooked”.
Later that night, Breen knocked on the door of an elderly couple living in the area.
He gave them a story of having been put out of his vehicle by his girlfriend. However, the couple were wary because a community text alert was circulating. They allowed Breen to ring his father, who in turn, advised Breen to hand himself in to gardai.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the incident posed a threat, firstly to the hitchhiker, and then to gardai who pursued the Land Cruiser.
He said members of the gardai who put themselves in harms way in service of the community are entitled to expect support from the courts. Likewise, offenders who injure or endanger gardai going about their duty must expect to be dealt with severely.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court had no hesitation in dismissing the appeal. The sentence was an entirely appropriate one given the seriousness of the incident, Mr Justice Birmingham said.