Car thief must pay victim £15k after driving off in car left with engine running

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A CAR thief has been ordered to pay £15,500 to his victim.

Christopher Finnigan is currently serving 18 months in prison for stealing the 10-day old Volkswagen Polo from outside a house in Chester-le-Street.

Durham Crown Court heard the car was left unattended with its engine running to de-ice the windscreen.

“Because of this the insurance company refused to pay the claim from the owners,” said Liam O’Brien, prosecuting.

“The car had been bought on finance and the owners were faced with having to make payments for several years on a vehicle they no longer had.”

Finnigan, 30, of Market Place, Houghton, was convicted of theft in January and jailed for 18 months.

Prosecutors launched an investigation to see if any of his assets could be seized as the proceeds of crime.

Finnigan admitted he had taken the car, but said he had driven it for a short while and then abandoned it on waste ground with the keys still in the ignition.

Mr O’Brien said it was the Crown’s case he had sold the car, and he also owned or had owned six other cars.

More than £6,000 in Finnigan’s bank account was frozen as part of the investigation. A resumed Proceeds of Crime Act hearing was told Finnigan had refused to come to court from prison, but still denied selling the Polo.

Judge Peter Kelson QC made a confiscation order against Finnigan for £15,500, and ordered all money recovered to be paid to the owners of the Polo.

The judge said: “Mr Finnigan claims he took the car and then dumped it.

“I reject that account as absurd and dishonest. He stole the car, disposed of it, and made profit from that disposal.

“Further, he has sought to conceal those profits from this court.”

Judge Kelson ordered Finnigan to pay the money by June 30, or face an extra nine months in prison in default.