A 39-year-old man who led gardaí on a dangerous car chase through Partry, Kilmaine and Shrule ramming a garda jeep in the process, was fined a total of €4,000 at Ballinrobe district court this week, disqualified from driving for 12 years and sentenced to six months in prison to run consecutively with a six month sentence which he is currently serving.
Judge Mary Devins said it was a case of “extraordinary dangerous driving” which “could have killed several people”. Superintendent Padraic O’Toole concurred, adding that it was “absolutely crazy” driving which could have lead to “multiple deaths”.
The court heard that John Christopher McDonagh, of no fixed abode, who has 97 previous convictions in this jurisdiction, faced five counts of dangerous driving, drink driving, failing to stop and having no insurance.
Supt O’Toole told the court that on May 23 this year between 6.05pm and 6.10pm Garda Seamus Kelly received a call at Westport Garda Station that a customer at a filling station was causing trouble. The customer was driving a Northern Ireland-registered van and while Gda Kelly was walking towards the scene he saw the vehicle coming towards him on the South Mall.
The Garda signalled to the defendant to stop, however McDonagh mounted the footpath at the Mall and drove on the inside of a number of vehicles. In doing this manoeuvre, McDonagh collided with two cars causing €500 damage to one of the vehicles and €3,541.03 to the other. Gda Kelly tried to open the vehicle doors, but they were locked, and the car drove off.
Gardaí in the nearby regions were informed of the incident and the defendant was spotted travelling through the Kilawalla, Tourmakeady and Partry areas at 6.30pm by local gardaí who gave chase. McDonagh was driving in an erratic manner by overtaking on a continuous white line and he took off at speed once the garda patrol car was directly behind him. The defendant also overtook on bends and on the brow of a hill with no visibility.
As the car continued to travel at speed gardaí slowed their vehicle down, hoping that the defendant would also reduce his speed, however, McDonagh continued to perform dangerous manoeuvres. On reaching Partry village another garda car saw the defendant and pursued him. As McDonagh entered the town of Ballinrobe he drove up on the footpath and on the inside of a bus. He headed towards Kilmaine. A Garda checkpoint was now established in Carrowkeel at 6.45pm. On seeing the roadblock McDonagh did a U-turn and forced his way between a garda car and a stone wall until he was clear of the gardaí, and headed back in the Kilmaine direction. The Garda car which the defendant rammed into sustained €832.34 worth of damage.
Gardaí continued their pursuit until they lost sight of him at 7.45pm in the Shrule area. When McDonagh was finally spotted again in the vicinity the gardaí manoeuvred their jeep into the middle of the road in order to block off the road.
The defendant slowed down but then accelerated and tried to ram between a wall and the jeep. The car collided with the jeep and the jeep’s airbags inflated. The defendant was unable to continue.
At the scene McDonagh was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. A sample later provided by the defendant showed 109mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The defendant also gave a false name and address at the scene— that of Thomas McDonagh from Ballyhaunis and he failed to produce insurance.
The court heard how McDonagh has a string of convictions over the past 20 years, for theft, arson, criminal damage, along with road traffic offences. His last conviction was on October 10 this year in Drogheda District Court for dangerous driving, where he was fined, disqualified and sentenced to prison.
Barrister for McDonagh, Kathleen Henry, explained that her client went on this spree of dangerous driving while being addicted to Diazepam and alcohol. Two of his children had died as had his brother and nephew and McDonagh had become depressed.
Ms Henry said that McDonagh was sorry for what he did and that he was now attending monthly AA meetings. The barrister said that false name or no false name, McDonagh always appeared in court and asked that if a custodial sentence was to be imposed that it would be lenient as his father has cancer and he wanted to be near him.
For the dangerous driving incident on the Mall in Westport, Judge Devins convicted and fined McDonagh €1,000, disqualified him from driving for 10 years and sentenced him to six months in prison consecutive with the prison sentence which was imposed on him in Drogheda District Court. For failing to stop in Westport he was convicted and fined €500, disqualified from driving for 10 years concurrent and sentenced him to prison for six months concurrent.
For dangerous driving in Drumminroe West, Partry McDonagh was fined €1,000, disqualified from driving for 12 years concurrent and sentenced to six months in prison concurrent. For dangerous driving in Carrowkeel the defendant was convicted and fined €500, disqualified from driving for 12 years concurrent and sentenced to six months in prison concurrent. The other two dangerous driving charges were taken into consideration. For drink driving, McDonagh was convicted and fined €1,000, disqualified from driving for 12 years concurrent and sentenced to prison for six months. Also taken into consideration was the failure to have insurance and providing a false name.