Northern Ireland

Man damaged Coalisland shop by revving engine

Dungannon Magistrates' Court
Image caption Stefan Boyd of Stewartstown Road, Coalisland, denied the charge but refused to give evidence on his own behalf

A 30-year-old man has been convicted of causing £12,790 damage to a shop after reversing his car up to its automatic doors, revving the engine and pumping exhaust smoke into the premises.

Two staff were working at the time, one of whom required hospital treatment for the effects of breathing in the fumes.

Stefan Boyd, of Stewartstown Road, Coalisland, denied the charge.

He claimed it was not him in the driver's seat of the car, although he accepted having a connection to it.

CCTV footage of the incident, which occurred at 21:30 BST on 17 August 2016 in a Coalisland filling station, was shown at Dungannon Magistrates Court.

Extensive damage

The footage showed a car reverse close enough for the automatic door sensors to activate. When the doors opened, thick black smoke was seen flowing into the interior of the shop, causing extensive damage to products and fittings.

One of the two staff in the shop at the time was serving behind the shop counter when a woman came in, bought a SIM card, chatted with another staff member and left.

The woman was Boyd's girlfriend at the time of the offence, and was known to both of the staff members present.

Seconds later, a car reversed up to the shop's doors and smoke billowed in. The fumes hung in the air for a time having drifted throughout the shop, before settling on goods on display.

Witness account

One of the staff members told the court said she became ill the following day and attended a GP who sent her on to Craigavon Area Hospital.

She was suffering from eye irritation, as well as nausea and breathing difficulties, following direct exposure to the exhaust smoke.

Her co-worker confirmed seeing Boyd, whom he had known for some years, in the car which reversed up to the doors.

A defence barrister challenged this staff member stating: "Is it not a fact you put two and two together and assumed because my client's girlfriend had been in the shop immediately beforehand, that it was him in the car?"

The witness rejected that assertion, and the suggestion that the forecourt lights were too dim to allow for a positive identification.

Inference of guilt

Next to give evidence was a police officer who confirmed Boyd provided a pre-prepared statement denying any involvement in the incident, and thereafter gave a "no comment" interview.

The defence advised the court that Boyd had decided not to give evidence on his own behalf from which the judge warned an inference could be taken.

Finding Boyd guilty the judge said: "The defendant was obviously, royally in a position to give an account of his movements that night but he made no effort to do so.

"That's because he is entirely guilty of this matter."

Boyd was remanded on continuing bail while pre-sentence reports are prepared.

The case is due back in court on 20 September.