A 19-year old who was part of a three-man gang who subjected a driver to an ordeal lasting over three hours was handed an 18-month sentence on Thursday.
A 19-year old who was part of a three-man gang who subjected a driver to an “appalling experience” that lasted over three hours was handed an 18-month sentence on Thursday.
Stephen Allen, whose address was given as Hydebank, was one of three men behind a hijacking in the Divis Street area of Belfast.
During the ordeal, the driver of a Volkwagen Golf was forced to drive around the Falls area with three strangers in his car before he was assaulted and threatened with a knife.
Belfast Crown Court heard that as a result of his ordeal last summer, the driver was left “very traumatised”.
The court heard on the evening of July 31 last year, the Golf’s driver – a young mechanic who was very proud of his car – had travelled to Belfast to meet friends.
However, he drove to the wrong location and ended up in the Falls/Dunville Street area of the city, where three young males – one of whom was Allen – asked him for a lift.
The driver “thought he would humour them” and picked them up.
But the driver went on to be threatened at knifepoint and assaulted by the front seat passenger, and was forced to make several stops. Drugs were also taken in his car.
Eventually the driver “relinquished control of driving the vehicle and handed over the keys to the male threatening and assaulting him. His car was then driven dangerously, at high speeds and in a very reckless manner.”
During the incident, reference was also made to ‘Divis Hoods.’
The court heard Allen was later linked to the vehicle via DNA.
He was interviewed on two occasions, and twice he gave ‘no comment’ responses to police questions.
He did, however, later admit to a charge of hijacking on the grounds of joint enterprise.
The court heard he has a criminal record comprising of 20 convictions, one of which is for aggravated vehicle taking.
His defence lawyer said that despite being of a limited intellectual ability, Allen was working towards several City and Guilds qualifications whilst in Hydebank – a move his barrister said was evidence of “trying to build a more positive future” and demonstrated a determination “to change his ways.”
Regarding the offence itself, Mr Curran said Allen was a secondary party and a back-seat passenger, and not the one who threatened or assaulted the driver.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland branded the incident as both alarming and traumatic for the driver involved.
Pointing out that from start to finish the ordeal lasted around three and a half hours, the Judge said it must have been “an appalling experience” for him.
Addressing Allen, he was told by Judge McFarland: “You were not directly involved in the sense that you may not have been involved in the threats and intimidation, but you were in the car.
“You could have made a choice at some stage to leave that car, but you didn’t, and you have to take responsibility for what happened in that car, even if you were not a primary party.”
The 18-month sentence will be divided between nine months in Hydebank, followed by a further period of nine months on licence.