Belfast man jailed for knifepoint car hijacking

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.
Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

A Belfast man who hijacked a car at knifepoint from a “vulnerable” woman has been handed a 33-month sentence.

Sean Foster – who began taking drugs when he was aged just nine – was also banned from driving for three years after he admitted four charges arising from two separate incidents on the same day last February.

The 24-year-old, from New Barnsley Park, will spend half his sentence in prison, with the remaining half spent on supervised licence when he is released from custody.

Prior to sentencing, Judge Gordon Kerr QC was told by a Crown prosecutor that the first incident occurred in the Strangford Avenue area of Belfast at around 7pm on February 10, 2015. A female motorist had just left her son to a music tutorial and was sitting in her Seat Leon when she saw someone running past her car.

She then heard a knock on the passenger’s side window. Believing it was her son, the woman pressed the unlock button – only for Foster to get into the vehicle.

The prosecutor said that Foster then produced a large knife before ordering the woman to get out of her car. The woman leaned over to get her walking stick, and as she was getting out of the driver’s side, Foster came round and nudged her, causing her to fall backwards.

He then fled the scene in the Sean Leon, which was later recovered on the Monagh bypass.

The court heard the female motorist was “extremely shaken” as a result of what happened.

Just over an hour later, Foster targeted another vehicle which was parked on the Cavehill Road. He approached a female as she sat in the passenger’s seat, and told her to get out of the car.

She refused, and when her door was opened she shouted for help. She then saw her husband coming out of a shop, prompting Foster to flee the scene.

He was chased by the husband, who found him hiding under a car and detained him until police arrived.

After he was arrested, Foster denied the offences during interview. However, his DNA was located from swabs taken from the steering wheel and a screwdriver found in the stolen Sean Leon. He was also picked out in a Viper identity procedure by the Seat Leon’s owner.

He subsequently admitted four offences – namely hijacking, attempted hijacking, driving whilst disqualified and driving with no insurance.

Defence barrister Sean Devine told Judge Kerr that his client had a “long-standing problem with Diazepam”, and that Foster started taking drugs when he was nine.

Describing last February’s criminality as a “ham-fisted attempt to raise funds to buy drugs”, Mr Devine said the incidents were “thankfully very short-lived” and didn’t result in any injuries.

Passing sentence, Judge Kerr told Foster that hijacking was an “extremely serious offence”, adding: “You targeted a vulnerable woman, you produced a weapon and she was clearly threatened by the use of that weapon.”