Suspended sentence for man who led off-duty garda on high speed chase

A Newcastle man who led an off-duty garda on a dangerous high speed chase through Salthill received a five month suspended sentence and was disqualified from driving for two years.

The Galway District Court heard yesterday how the 21-year-old defendant claimed that he had been threatened with a hammer and thought he was being chased by the person who had issued the threat.

Mark McNeill with an address given as 55 Camillaun Park, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving at Lower Salthill and Threadneedle Road on Janaury 29, 2009.

Inspector Michael Coppinger told the court that at 4.10pm Garda Paul Duffy had been off duty and was driving out of the Topaz filling station when he observed a car, driven by the defendant, rounding a bend dangerously and on the wrong side of the road heading in the direction of Salthill. While in hot pursuit Garda Duffy saw the defendant’s car approach a roundabout on the wrong side of the road and when it reached Threadneedle Road it dangerously overtook five cars and reached a speed of 100kmph. When McNeill was finally stopped he told Garda Duffy that he had been threatened with a hammer.

Defence solicitor Noel Rhatigan said that his client had been threatened by occupants of a car and that he did not realise it was a garda who was in the car behind him. “He felt it was the person who had threatened him earlier,” said Mr Rhatigan, who added that McNeill is taking active steps to address his issues. Mr Rhatigan later explained that once McNeill realised it was a garda behind him he stopped his car. He said that when McNeill was very young he had been in trouble in Westside with some factions. McNeill, who has 10 previous convictions, feared that the person who had threatened him had been a member of these factions.

“It doesn’t make any sense. All he had to do was pull into the petrol station and diall his phone for the gardai. He was up to something,” said Judge Mary Fahy, who then imposed a total of five months suspended for 12 months on condition that McNeill enter into a bond of €200 to be of good behaviour. McNeill was also disqualified from driving for two years and fined €600 with three months to pay.

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