A drink driver who was chased by gardaí from Donegal Town to Ballyshannon and then rammed the garda car was sent to jail for 15 months.
The judge said Donegal had recently seen a very sad road fatality and this man was old enough to know better.
Brian Corrigan (34) of Drumbrochas Macken, Derrylin, Enniskillen was before Donegal District Court on Monday. He admitted three counts of dangerous driving which took place at Ballymagroarty, Ballintra; Parkhill, Ballyshannon and Coolcholly, Ballyshannon. Corrigan also pleaded guilty to handling a stolen Nissan Almera worth €2,000, criminal damage to a patrol car and driving without insurance at Coolcholly, Ballyshannon. The offences occurred on September 16.
His passenger Ciaran Kelly (31) of 32 Ferney Rise, Enniskillen was charged for the same incident. He admitted allowing himself to be carried in a stolen vehicle and to being drunk to the extent of being a danger to himself or others.
Sergeant Oliver Devaney gave evidence that Garda Brendan Waters responded to a report of a suspected drink driver in Donegal Town.
Garda Waters indicated for the Nissan Almera to stop. When it failed to do so, he followed it in the direction of Ballyshannon with the blue lights activated on the patrol car. Again, it failed to stop.
The garda requested support from Ballintra Garda Station and a second patrol car came to assistance. The suspect car continued towards Ballyshannon. It was swerving over and back across the white line and attempting to overtake and undertake another car.
“In Ballyshannon an attempt was made by Garda Paul White to deploy a stinger device,” said Sgt Devaney. “It was unsuccessful.”
He said Corrigan then took off in the direction of Rossnowlagh.
At this point, Garda Waters overtook the Almera. It came to a stop, then did a u-turn on the road. A second Garda car was coming behind. Corrigan drove on to the grass to escape but then rammed the patrol car.
Both occupants were arrested at the scene. Corrigan was subsequently found to have an alcohol reading of 213mg per 100ml of blood.
Further investigation revealed that the car had been stolen from a private house in Enniskillen.
Defence solicitor Donough Cleary said the men had been at a party and had a lot to drink. He said it was at the home of the car owner who had passed out. They took the car and were so disorientated they thought they were in Sligo when they were in Donegal Town. And when they turned towards Rossnowlagh from Ballyshannon, they thought they were going home.
He said Kelly was asleep and had been oblivious to the garda chase.
Mr Cleary said Corrigan was a decent, hard-working plasterer when sober.
He said to Sgt Devaney: “I think both men were co-operative and didn’t cause any problems when they were in custody.”
The sergeant replied: “Yes, from the point the vehicle came to a stop.”
Judge Kevin Kilrane said: “This is an appalling episode of dangerous driving and drink driving on the road. The defendant made a determined attempt to escape. Three patrol cars were following and effectively surrounding him.
“But for the actions of Gardaí in blocking his escape, heaven knows where he would have ended up. He might have made it across the border and we wouldn’t have found him at all, so he must be dealt with very harshly.”
Referring to the recent tragic crash in Bundoran in which two young people died, Judge Kilrane said: “You would think that a man of 34 years of age would know that he was going to get caught and that he was risking the lives of himself and other road users.”
He sentenced Corrigan to 15 months in jail and disqualified him from driving for six years.
The judge did not accept that Kelly had been asleep throughout the incident.
In sentencing him to two months in jail and banning him from driving for two years, Judge Kilrane said: “Anyone that would participate in this type of escapade, they do not deserve to hold a driving licence.”
He set recognisance in the event of an appeal. In Kelly’s case, recognisance was set at his own bond of €100 cash and independent surety of €3,000 of which €1,000 must be lodged in cash, or alternatively €3,000 in cash by either the defendant or the surety.
Corrigan’s recognisance was set at his own bond of €100 cash and an independent surety of €9,000 of which €4,500 must be lodged, or €9,000 in cash.
“In each case, surety has to be a person within the state,” said Judge Kilrane.
The prison sentences took effect from September 17, the date of the men’s first court appearance.
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