Monday, 14 March 2011 12:31
One man was caught face down while hiding in a quarry when gardaí arrived on the scene as raiders were trying to make off with diesel from a compound in Kilkelly. A second man involved in the operation handed himself up to gardaí the following day, Judge Mary Devins was told at Ballyhaunis court where
two men pleaded guilty to charges involving theft of diesel, trespassing and criminal damage.
Ian McHugh (44), Park Road, Swinford, and Barry O'Gara (30), Pollea, Williamstown, Galway, pleaded guilty to all charges and will be sentenced at the April court.
In prosecuting the case, Inspector Joe Doherty called for a strong message to be sent out to those who are caught stealing diesel or home heating oil from houses or business premises in Mayo.
Describing the practice as 'rampant;' in his division, and the crime as 'mean,' Inspector Doherty urged Judge Mary Devins to take a strong line when dealing with such defendants.
Inspector Doherty further urged that the vehicles of those caught in such acts be confiscated and their driving licenses revoked.
Judge Devins adjourned her decision. The two men had pleaded guilty to breaking and entering Ring's Quarry in Kilkelly, causing criminal damage to the value of €1,100 by damaging a gate and container tank and stealing diesel valued at €1,200
The court heard a Mercedes van belonging to McHugh, who is a well-known second-hand car dealer, was found equipped with three large tanks, a pump and siphoning material.
Garda Tyrone Tobin said he was called to the scene where he met the owner, Mr. Pat Ring, who told him someone was stealing diesel from his compound.
Garda Tobin said it was at 10.35 on the night of November 22 last and he saw a Mercedes van with its lights on and abandoned.
He searched the area and found O'Gara hiding among rocks, face down. The following day McHugh contacted the gardaí and made a full confession.
Garda Tobin said he examined the van, which was now in the compound in Swinford. It was equipped with three large tanks and siphoning equipment.
One tank had been filled with diesel valued at €1,200.
Both defendants, through their solicitors, denied they had 'an operation' going on and claimed it was their first time attempting to steal diesel in this manner.
Inspector Doherty said the practice was 'rampant' in Mayo and it was important a clear message be sent out concerning the forfeiture of a vehicle found to be involved and the loss of a driving licence.
McHugh gave evidence of his need to keep his driving licence in order to make a living.
He was 'remorseful' and deeply regretted what he had done, which was an embarrassment for him and his family. His business had been failing and he had seen an opportunity.
Mr. Ring was handed compensation of €1,100 in court for damage caused to his premises.
He said if he had not come on the scene 'a lot more damage' would have been done.
Judge Devins said she was inclined to think both men had 'an operation going' and said she needed time to consider the suggestions and comments of Inspector Doherty before sentencing in April.
She had also to consider the fact that McHugh had no previous convictions while the other party in the crime did have a record.