Laois men given four to five-year sentences for garda car ramming in stolen jeep

Offences contribute to 'destruction of trust in rural Ireland'

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Court - Smashed garda patrol car outside Portlaoise courthouse

Three Laois men have been jailed at Portlaoise Circuit Court for their part in an incident in Mountrath in which gardaí were badly injured after two patrol cars were rammed by a stolen jeep containing items stolen in a number of different burglaries.

Thomas McInerney (40), Twomey Park, Mountmellick, was today (Thursday, June 29) sentenced to a total of five years and three months in jail.

William McInerney (37), Newline Close, Mountrath, and Gerard McInerney (38), Moanbaun Close, Mountrath, were sentenced to a total of four years and six months in jail. The final 12 months of each man’s sentence was suspended, on condition he enter a peace bond to keep the peace for six years post-release; and he submit to probation supervision for 18 months post release.

All three pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property, and the unauthorised taking of an MPV. Judge Keenan Johnson said their offending had "contributed to the destruction of trust in rural Ireland", as the stolen items which the accused had been in possession of were all taken in different robberies over a three-week period.

Judge Johnson said that Thomas McInerney, who he described as the ringleader, was getting a longer sentence as he had been the driver of the jeep which rammed two garda cars and injured four gardaí, at Cloncourse, Mountrath, on July 12, 2016.

In July, 2016, the gardaí received a report of a stolen jeep and car trailer having been found secreted in Cloncourse Woods near Mountrath. The jeep and trailer contained stolen articles, so the gardaí mounted a surveillance operation.

On the night of July 11, a van and a jeep were observed going to this location, both vehicles with their headlights off. The stolen jeep with the trailer attached made its way out of the wooded area a short time later, and two garda vehicles, both with the blue lights activated, tried to block the access road.

The driver of the stolen jeep, which was equipped with bull bars, revved the engine and rammed the two garda vehicles, causing extensive damage to both vehicles.

The three accused then abandoned the stolen jeep and attempted to escape on foot, but were apprehended and arrested. The accused were wearing balaclavas and had black gloves. Thomas McInerney was established as the driver of the stolen jeep.

Four gardaí were injured in the incident, with one still off work and unable to walk without a stick. Another garda suffered serious physiological and psychological injuries. He said he thought he would be killed during the incident and still has trouble sleeping.

“I am satisfied that Thomas McInerney bears primary responsibility, given that he was the driver of the stolen jeep at the time of the impact,” said Judge Johnson. “However, it is clear that all of the accused acted with a common design and accordingly each must accept culpability for the offending.”

In sentencing; Judge Johnson said: “The court is acutely conscious of the plague of robberies and burglaries that are afflicting rural Ireland and in particular farms on the Midlands Circuit. The growth of these types of burglaries and robberies are an attack on the foundations of rural society.”

He concluded: “There can be no doubt, but that the types of offences to which the accused pleaded guilty have contributed to the destruction of trust in rural Ireland.”