A heroin addict who “opportunistically” hijacked a car has been jailed for two years.
Ordering James Loughran to spend half his sentence in jail and half on licence, Judge Kinney said while the incident may have been unplanned, the offence “was clearly a traumatic and distressing experience for the lone female victim”.
He had earlier heard how the woman was sitting in the passenger seat of a Vauxhall Vectra on Union Street on 6 October 2011 while her friend was in a nearby betting shop.
Prosecuting lawyer David McClean told Belfast Crown Court how the driver had left the keys in the ignition and the engine running when Loughran jumped into the drivers seat and ordered the woman out.
She initially refused, the lawyer said, but did in fact get out when Loughran threatened “get out or I’ll pull you out”.
Another man got in and the car sped off but was recovered undamaged within an hour of the incident.
Loughran, from Navan Street in Belfast, was arrested after his DNA profile was uncovered in a baseball cap he had left behind in the stolen car and later pleaded guilty to hijacking and driving while disqualified.
Mr McClean said while there was no violence used in the hijacking, Loughran’s “substantial” criminal record of 89 offences, including convictions for robbery, serious assault and 37 driving offences aggravated the offence.
Defence lawyer Jon-Paul Shields said Loughran remembered very little of the incident as he had been drinking and taking drugs at the time.
He added however that Loughran was taking steps in an effort to deal with his drug and heroin addictions.
Jailing Loughran, Judge Kinney said while it was an opportunistic hijacking, “nevertheless it is a serious offence for which only a custodial sentence is appropriate”.
Banning Loughran from driving for five years, he added it was essential “that victims as in this case do not have to endure the actions of the likes of this defendant who seek to take advantage of their vulnerability”.