No jail for man who hijacked car and threatened heavily pregnant woman and her husband

No jail: David Richards
No jail: David Richards

A young Dublin man who hijacked a car from a heavily pregnant woman and her husband and threatened them with a steering wheel lock has been given a suspended sentence.

Susan O'Leary told the court she feared she would lose her unborn child when she and her husband Roddie had to run on an icy road to get away from the car thieves. She also said she now suffers from depression and anxiety and never leaves the house.

David Richards (26) of Basin Lane, St James’s Gate, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the unauthorised taking of a car on Meath Street in Dublin on January 1, 2010.

He also admitted drink driving, dangerous driving and driving without insurance and a licence during the same incident.

Judge Patrick McCartan remarked that Richards had committed an “appalling set of crimes.” He imposed an 18 month suspended sentence and banned Richards from driving for ten years. He also ordered that €5,000 gathered by Richards in compensation be handed over to the victims.

Garda Cailin Doherty told Derek Cooney, BL, prosecuting that at 1.35am on New Year's Day in 2010, Ms O’Leary’s BMW was taken from her by force by Richards and another man.

Richards' accomplice told her and her husband that he would shoot them if they did not hand over the keys and get out of the car. They said they did not see a gun but the man held his hand in his shirt in the shape of a pistol.

Richards took the car wheel lock and threatened the couple while Mr O'Leary kept telling the men that his wife was heavily pregnant.

“The couple ran from the car because they were frightened,” said Gda Doherty.

Gda Doherty said Richards, who was drunk, took over driving the car from his accomplice after it had collided with a pole.

“Richards then accelerated the car in an attempt to get away from gardaí and as the roads were very icy, the car swung across the road and hit a kerb,” said Gda Doherty.

Richards, who has three previous convictions, was arrested a short time later.

Defence counsel Marc Thompson BL, said Richards, a father-of-one, hid from gardai for four years as he was afraid to go to jail.

Ms O’Leary told the court that the ordeal has affected her badly. “I initially feared I was going to lose my unborn child when we had to run on ice. I now suffer from fear and anxiety and do not want to leave my house. I am a changed person.”

She said she was enraged by the fact that the case “dragged on for four years” because Richards could not be found.

“What does an early guilty plea mean if he hasn’t been before the court in four years?” she asked.

“This is an appalling set of crimes and the fact that he absconded and his attitude beggars belief,” Judge McCartan said.

“He knew Mrs O’Leary was pregnant. Drink or no drink on him, he put them through a horrible experience,” he said.