Speed van arsonist is freed to return to job in Australia
A 23-YEAR-OLD MAN who pleaded guilty to setting fire to an occupied Go-Safe speed detection van near Arklow has been given an 11-month suspended sentence on condition that he returns to Australia within that period.
Simon Furlong, of The Haven, Knocknaskena, Killarney, Co Kerry, and also of Kilanerin, Gorey, pleaded guilty before Wexford Circuit Criminal Court to causing damage by fire to a Go-Safe speed detection van at Ashwood, Gorey, on March 13, 2011.
In passing sentence on Friday, Judge Barry Hickson said the two other defendants in the case had received seven year suspended sentences, while in this case the defendant’s counsel offered a plea for a sentence of less than 12 months which would enable him return to Australia.
Defence counsel said Furlong had shown remorse and had been making a living for himself in Australia before he was extradited back to meet this case. The defendant had spent three months in detention waiting to be extradited back to Ireland.
State Solicitor Kevin O’Doherty said he had checked with the Australian authorities and was informed the defendant could return to Australia should he receive 12 months or less.
Det Sgt Murt Whelan told the court the Go-Safe speed detection van was parked at Ashwood, Gorey, where it was occupied by John McDonald.
He told the court of the three defendants went to an Esso service station for a can of petrol before returning to where the van was parked. Furlong poured petrol under the van, while another set fire to it with a match, causing the van to go on fire.
At that time, said Det Whelan, Mr McDonald was in the rear of the van. Having managed to get out of the van he rang gardaí, who arrived almost immediately.
The damage to the van came to €18,000 while there was €62,500 damage to the van equipment.
Det Whelan said the three accused were later arrested and interviewed in relation to the fire. The defendant was interviewed in the presence of his father. He came from a very good family background and this was his first offence, while he had not come to the attention of gardaí since.
Det Whelan said that Mr McDonald was left severely traumatised as a result of the ordeal.
Judge Hickson said he would take into account the rather exceptional circumstances in this case. He also said the evidence of the prosecuting garda swayed heavily in this case, as did his counsel’s plea before handing down an 11-month suspended sentence.
The speed van on fire at Ashwood on March 13, 2011.