Drunk driver thought a patrol car behind him was an ambulance

A 51-year-old man was disqualified from driving for three years at Castlebar District Court this week.

Gerry McDermott, Carheens Cross, Claremorris was observed driving by Garda Aidan Connaugton on March 16 2012 at 1.20am. The garda, who was pulling out of a side road, observed the driver leave from Cross and drive at speed in the direction of Glencorrib, Shrule.

The garda car pulled out behind him and followed him. The Garda car’s lights and siren were activated. However, McDermott continued at speed and was followed for 1km. McDermott activated his car’s hazard lights and continued. The garda said there was heavy rainfall and mist that night and the road has extremely bad bends. Garda Connaugton followed the car for another 1.5km and then McDermott turned right into side road at Funshinagh, Cross. It drove down the road and then came to an abrupt stop beside a puddle. According to Garda Connaughton, McDermott got out of the car, put his hands up and said “arrest me so”. The defendant was arrested at 1.31am for drink driving.

At Claremorris Garda Station he provided a blood sample which showed 174mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

McDermott contested the fact that he failed to stop for the garda. He denied speeding that night. He said that he drove at 80km, the speed limit on the road is 100km. He also said that the night was not wet and road conditions were not bad. He told the court that he thought it was an ambulance behind him not a garda car and therefore put his hazard lights on. He said he did not stop as it was not safe to do on that road and finally stopped on the side road when it was safe. McDermott denied putting his hands up when he got out of the car.

McDermott has no previous convictions.

Judge Mary Devins said that there was insufficient evidence to convict for dangerous driving, but there was for failing to stop.

Solicitor for McDermott, Ruth Byrne asked for a postponement in the disqualification as the single father of a 15-year-old needs to bring this daughter to Youthreach until the end of June.

Judge Devins convicted and fined him €400 and disqualified him from driving for three years to come into effect from July 1.

Before sentencing Judge Devins said that from a date hereafter that contributions to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety will be imposed in such drink driving convictions. The judge said that the mandatory requirement will add considerably to the drink driving fines. The judge said that these will be imposed at some stage as drink driving prosecutions are not going down in Mayo.

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