Longford District Court: Jailed for stealing car batteries from Ballymahon garage

Judge Seamus Hughes critical of scrap yard procedures

Longford Leader

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Two men who appeared before Longford District Court last week charged under the Theft & Fraud Offences Act were sentenced to six months in prison following a hearing into the matter.

The case, which was heard in full during a previous court sitting, centered around the selling of stolen car batteries to Hammond Lane Scrap Yard in Athlone.

During that hearing, Judge Seamus Hughes requested that the owners of the facility appear before him after being told that the two men allegedly stole several batteries from a car dealership in Ballymahon before selling them on to the Athlone firm.

Bernard and Joseph McDonagh, 17 and 15 Blackberry Lane, Athlone, Co Westmeath pleaded guilty to the offences which took place at Nally’s Hyundai Garage, Drinan, Ballymahon on various dates in June this year.

During last week’s hearing, manager at Hammond Lane, Seamus Carr provided evidence to the court.

Mr Carr said that the company, which was privately owned, had outlets in Athlone, Dublin, Sligo and Cork.

Judge Hughes then asked him if he was aware of “all the thieving of metal in Ireland” and the fact that it eventually ended up in “places like yourselves”.

“What procedures do you have in place?,” the Judge inquired.

Mr Carr then told the court that when a person presented themselves at Hammond Lane to sell their wares, the company required ID.

In the case of cars for sale, the seller was required to provide the reg number and particulars of the car.

“If I know people, then I don’t look for ID,” admitted Mr Carr, before pointing out that the company paid dealers by cheque or cash.

Judge Hughes then asked Mr Carr if he was aware of whether or not Bernard McDonagh was in the garage business, and the company manager subsequently replied that he did not know.

“How do you think these men got their hands on 40 batteries - I’m asking you,” asked the Judge, before pointing out to Mr Carr that his company was a “facilitator” of stolen property.

“If ye didn’t exist, these people wouldn’t have a market place ; your procedures are appalling and just look at the defendants - do they look like garage men to you?

“Somebody at your company knows that those goods were stolen.”

Meanwhile, Inspector Bláithín Moran told the previous court sitting that the pair made three journeys to and from the south Longford dealership to steal the batteries, all of which was captured on CCTV.

She also told the court that Joseph McDonagh had 14 previous convictions to his name while his co-accused had one, leading Judge Hughes to joke the latter’s criminal record meant he could be described as “a walking saint”.

Judge Hughes said the incident raised certain questions as to the responsibilities businesses had in accepting what were, in effect, stolen items.

In mitigation, last week, the defendant’s solicitor John Quinn said that his clients’ had paid €500 to Nally Brothers in recompense for the batteries taken from their garage.

During his deliberations on the matter Judge Hughes asked the defendants what gave them the right to travel the length and breadth of Ireland stealing property that “decent, hardworking people worked hard for”.

The Judge subsequently handed down two six month prison sentences.

“Do not consider rural Ireland as a market for theft,” he fumed at the defendants before concluding matters.