Five youths have appeared in court in relation to a cross border police pursuit of a stolen car, which was being driven by a 16-year-old who smoked cannabis beforehand.
Each child appeared individually by video-link at Strabane Magistrates’ Court where it emerged three are subject to care orders in the Republic of Ireland.
The driver (Youth A) who is aged 16, is charged with driving dangerously, whilst unfit and without a licence or insurance, failing to stop for police, taking a vehicle without owner’s consent, possessing cannabis and damaging a PSNI cell.
Youths B, C, D, and E, whose ages range from 15 to 17 are jointly charged with travelling as passengers in a car knowing it was stolen.
All five are charged with going equipped for theft by having screwdrivers
A police officer told Strabane Magistrates Court the charges against each accused which occurred on 4 January could be connected.
He explained a report was received from An Garda Siochana that a vehicle had failed to stop in Donegal, and was last observed crossing a bridge into Strabane.
PSNI located the vehicle as it came through Sion Mills and a pursuit ensued after it failed to stop.
Officers at another location deployed a Stinger device, which burst a tyre but the vehicle continued on.
It swerved over the road crossing the central white lines then began to slow down as by this stage it was being driven with at least one wheel without a tyre.
When it eventually came to a stop officers attempted to open the doors but these were locked and a window had to be smashed open.
The driver, Youth 1 exited on demand and when searched a grinder was found in his pocket. He admitted smoking cannabis prior to driving after which he and the four co-accused were arrested.
A screwdriver was found in the front passenger footwell and pair of pliers were located in the rear.
Once in custody the driver flooded a police cell and was further arrested for criminal damage.
He admitted stealing the car in Droghera but denied going equipped for theft, instead claiming he found the screwdriver in the car which he used to start the ignition.
In relation to failing to stop, he contended he was under threat and, “Didn’t believe police were police, as anyone could rob a police car and use it.”
All driving matters were accepted.
Youth B admitted being a passenger in a car knowing the vehicle was stolen but denied going equipped for theft.
Youths C and D gave ‘no comment’ replies to all questions.
Youth E claimed to have been in Letterkenny when the car pulled up and he recognised the front passenger as his friend and, “Got in for a spin although he didn’t know the driver.”
He told police he did not suspect the car was stolen until An Garda Siochana was in pursuit, and denied any knowledge of the screwdriver or pliers.
Bail was not opposed due the young age of the defendants despite none having addresses in Northern Ireland.
It further emerged some of the youths are subject to care orders and currently reside in social services accommodation.
A social worker from Tusla was in attendance and confirmed accommodation remained available for bail however she could not, “Give a guarantee they won’t go missing.”
District Judge Steven Keown agreed to release all on bail, some to reside with their families and others in care accommodation.
The case was adjourned until 25 January.