‘Divis Hoods’ car crime supect refused bail

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A suspected member of the so-called ‘Divis Hoods’ who is charged with a spate of motoring offences was refused bail in the High Court on Wednesday.

Kieran Callaghan – who is currently in custody on a number of charges arising from two separate incidents – was described in court as “believed to be a member of a well-known group of youths who hang around the Divis area, and who are involved in car crime”.

Amongst other offences, Callaghan is suspected of being the driver of a car which crashed into a parked vehicle and which narrowly avoided hitting a man and his two young grandchildren. The High Court heard the grandfather has been left “traumatised” by the near miss and what could have happened to the two children had they not jumped out of the way.

The 19-year-old, from McDonnell Street in the Divis area of west Belfast, has been charged with two sets of offences. Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said the second incident was committed while Callaghan was on bail.

Callaghan has been charged with a string of offences carried out in east Belfast in April. The offences include interfering with a vehicle, theft and obstructing police.

The second set of offences occurred in October, and the charges levelled against Callaghan include aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident in the north of the city.

Regarding the incident in April, Mrs McKay told the court police in east Belfast received a report of three males breaking into a BMW. When officers attended the address, they noticed several cars in the area had been targeted. Officers subsequently located three males in the Belmont Park area, two of whom were located hiding in bushes.

One of these males, Callaghan, was wearing clothes matching the description given to police by witnesses. When he was searched, a bag containing £465 in cash was located and it emerged this has been stolen from the glove compartment of another vehicle.

Following his arrest and detention for this, Callaghan was granted bail. However, on October 14 he is suspected of being the driver of a Ford Escort which was chased at speeds of up to 70 mph in the heavily built-up Crumlin Road area of Belfast.

At around 4.10pm, the Escort lost control in the Woodvale Road area and hit a parked car. A man walking out of Woodvale Park with his two young grandchildren had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck.

Mrs McKay revealed: “This man is still extremely traumatised about what may have happened to his grandchildren.”

The driver was seen to exit the vehicle via a window and run off in the direction of the Springfield Road. A Nike Air Max shoe was left in the footwell of the Escort, while a mobile phone was also found in the abandoned vehicle. A witness later told police he saw a male running along Ainsworth Pass wearing only one shoe.

Mrs McKay said Callaghan was linked to the scene via DNA taken from the shoe and also from a fingerprint recovered from the Escort. One of the contacts on the mobile also bore the same name as a tattoo on Callaghan’s arm, which the Crown believe is his girlfriend.

The prosecutor also revealed there was CCTV footage of the Escort being pursued up the Crumlin Road at speeds, as well as CCTV footage taken from a Translink bus which shows the Escort losing control and crashing into the car parked in the Woodvale area.

Telling Lord Justice Girvan that the Crown was opposing bail, Mrs McKay raised concerns about Callaghan reoffending, especially, she said, given he had “put members of the public in danger”. Mrs McKay also spoke of Callaghan’s “lengthy criminal record”, adding he was known to police as a “repeat offender”.

A defence barrister pointed out that no formal pleas had been entered to the charges levelled against his client for the incident in October.

He also branded Callaghan as someone who had “hope in his life”, and said there had been periods where he had stayed out of trouble.

Lord Justice Girvan said there was “clearly” a case against Callaghan in relation to a number of offences, and also spoke of the fact the offences in October were committed while he was on bail and while Callaghan was facing other charges.

Also taking into account Callaghan’s “bad record” and police concerns about reoffending, Lord Justice Girvan said the court was refusing the application to grant bail.