A Galwayman could give no explanation why he led gardai on a dangerous lunchtime chase through the city during which he collided with a car, pushed another out of his way, mounted footpaths, and was only brought to an abrupt halt by a Garda jeep which pulled out in front of him at a busy roundabout.
The out-of-control driver, Peadar Tonery (25 ) with an address at 7 Ce Ne Mara, Dock Road, pleaded guilty to seven counts of dangerous driving at various locations. He also pleaded guilty to hit and run offences at Walter Macken Road, failure to stop after being required to do so by gardai at Clark Avenue, and driving without insurance.
Inspector Mick Coppinger told the court that on January 18, 2008, gardai on patrol in the Bohermore area noticed that the defendant was driving his vehicle without wearing a seat belt. At Monivea Road the Garda officers activated the blue lights and followed the defendant through Clark Avenue and Wolfe Tone Avenue but the defendant failed to stop. At Michael Collins Road the Garda patrol jeep was forced to chase the defendant who at this point was driving on the wrong side of the road and dangerously overtaking cars.
The inspector said that at Walter Macken Road the defendant’s car mounted the footpath in an attempt to avoid the patrol car. When another car was coming towards the defendant he pushed this car out of his way to get away and the patrol car was forced to chase the defendant further up Ballybane Road. The defendant then sped away and mounted the footpath at GMIT. Tonery then entered Skerritt roundabout dangerously, went towards Merlin Park forcing other cars to pull in at the bus lane to avoid him, and went through the red lights. The gardai then lost Tonery but then received reports of a vehicle, heading towards Carnmore Cross, which had collided with a car at the roundabout near Western Motors. When gardai arrived they were forced to pull their jeep in front of the defendant’s car in order to stop him.
The chase took place close to 2pm and the defendant had been travelling at around 60mph during the pursuit which lasted 15 to 20 minutes, according to Inspector Coppinger who added that the defendant had no previous convictions.
Defence solicitor Olivia Traynor said that her client was a local man who had never been in trouble before and is fully aware of how serious the incident is. She added that the “irony is that if he had stopped he would have been done for not wearing a seat belt and having no insurance”. She said that there was “no major crime going on” and that Tonery doesn’t know why he did it. Ms Traynor said that the defendant comes from a respectable family who are shocked at his behaviour. She stressed that “boy racer doesn’t fit into his profile”.
“This is deliberately evading gardai all around the city. This is the stuff of nightmares,” said an appalled Judge Fahy, who then asked Tonery to take the stand and give an explanation.
The defendant told Judge Fahy that he couldn’t explain what happened, that his “mind went blank” and he “just panicked” when he saw the blue lights of the patrol car.
The court heard earlier that the damage to the one of the cars was €2,630 and that the injured party had been compensated by her insurance company. Ms Traynor said that arrangements have been made for the insurance company to be paid so that this person’s claims history will not be affected.
Judge Fahy said that this type of behaviour was “very serious” and that she had imposed custodial sentences for similar cases. She said that she was not satisfied with the explanation given by the defendant and adjourned the case to November 3 to consider the penalty that should be imposed.
Regarding the injured party Judge Fahy added that it “must have been a frightening experience” and that it was her hope that “there is not going to be more of this in Galway”. She then suggested that a compensation payment of another €2,000 should be made.