Pair sentenced over Belfast police chase that ended in collision

Two Belfast men have been sentenced for offences committed when a stolen car was driven dangerously through the north of the city during a police pursuit last December.

The stolen BMW crashed into a wall after the chase
The stolen BMW crashed into a wall after the chase

An arrest warrant was issued for a third man who failed to appear in court.

All three men admitted various charges arising from the incident which began around 11am on December 2. The car in question was a blue BMW which was reported stolen the month before.

While Conall McErlean, 27, was sent to jail and 33-year-old Owen Devine was given community service on Tuesday, an arrest warrant was issued for 41-year-old Paul Liam Valliday in his absence.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Valliday, from John Blacking House on Lower Regent Street, was the driver, and that Cullingtree Road man McErlean was a front seat passenger. Devine, from Selby Walk, sat in the back.

While none of the trio made any admissions to police, all three later admitted to a range of offences.

Valliday admitted charges including dangerous driving, driving whilst disqualified and going equipped for theft, while his two passengers both admitted allowing themselves to be carried in a stolen car which caused damage to another vehicle, and going equipped for theft.

McErlean, who committed the offences whilst on probation, was handed a two-year prison sentence, while Devine was given a 200-hour community service order.

A prosecutor said: “This was at a busy time of the day in heavy traffic.”

The prosecutor said the BMW collided with a Smart car, causing damage to the second vehicle. At this point, Valliday lost control of the stolen vehicle which then struck a wall.

All three men fled the vehicle but were all arrested in the vicinity, and when the car was examined a number of items – including a balaclava, gloves, a high-vis jacket and part of a crossbow – were located. Also found were the BMW’s original registration plates.

During police interviews, Valliday gave a ‘no comment’ response, Devine claimed he was in the stolen car as he was simply being given a lift, while McErlean claimed he was wearing gloves when arrested as he was planning to wash and valet a car in his front garden.

Sentencing McErlean and Devine, Judge McFarland spoke of the difference in criminal records, and the levels of remorse expressed.

Addressing Devine, the judge noted his work history, genuine remorse and lack of criminal record.

Turning to McErlean, Judge McFarland noted his criminal record, and the fact he has been made the subject of a total of 10 previous probation orders which “have done very little good either for you or the community”.

The judge told him: “I’m afraid it is prison for you, and if you continue to offend, you will go to prison again. You have used up all the opportunities to assist you, which have failed.”

Noting that McErlean also used “abusive and foul language” to police during interviews, Judge McFarland handed him a two-year sentence – half of which will be spent behind bars, with the remaining year on licence upon his release.