A learner driver, with no insurance and who drove a defective car through townlands at speed, in a dangerous manner, while being pursued by gardaí, led Judge Mary Devins to consider what would be a “deterrent” instead of imposing a custodial sentence. According to Judge Devins defendant’s “race to the Circuit Court” to appeal such sentences.
Stephen Quinn, 38 The Spires, Church Road, Ballina was observed by Sergeant James Murphy on December 28 driving a car from the Crossmolina to Ballina direction with no tail lights on. Sgt Murphy also noticed that Quinn seemed to be travelling with a car in convoy behind him and was travelling at 130kph on a night when there was heavy frost and a number of vehicles ahead and oncoming.
On overtaking the car in convoy with Quinn, Sgt Murphy flashed his lights at him to signal him to stop, however the defendant failed to do so. The lights on the Garda car were activated and again the defendant failed to stop. Suddenly without indication Quinn turned left and continued at speed through a number of townlands where he was observed driving on the wrong side of the road; Quinn failed to slow down at junctions at bends and lost control of the car on a couple of occasions. In the townland of Balllinateen the car finally halted.
When gardaí approached the defendant he indicated to them that he was on his first provisional licence and that he had no insurance. The passenger with the defendant was a disqualified driver.
The car was observed by gardaí to be in a defective condition, with among others, the entire rear light installation removed and placed in the boot of the car, and there was a large sticker on the front screen which obstructed the driver’s view.
Defence solicitor Joe Tuohy explained the 23-year-old defendant had bought the car earlier that night for €600 from someone his friend knew. The intention of the purchase according to Mr Tuohy was so that Quinn could do the car up and sell it on. As for the car which was travelling behind on the night in question, it was providing rear lighting for the car.
Mr Tuohy said that the defendant, who lost his job from Toymaster on New Year’s Eve, “panicked” when he saw gardaí, but apologised the day after the incident.
Quinn, who has one previous road traffic conviction, was asked by Judge Devins if he cared if he lived or died that night as he could have killed himself or someone else, with the judge drawing comparisons to the tragic road deaths over the Christmas period of a number of young people. Judge Devins commented that she “imposes the penalties and the gardaí prosecute”, adding that “we just save lives and you throw them away”.
Judge Devins said that a “deterrent” such as community service needed to be imposed instead of a custodial sentence, as more often than not these sentences are appealed in the Circuit Court.
The judge then convicted and fined Quinn €100 for not having a driving licence; €300 for dangerous driving; disqualified him for two years; for no insurance, the defendant was convicted and fined €400 and disqualified for two years concurrent; and remanded Quinn on continuing bail to court on March 10 where a community service assessment report would be prepared. If deemed suitable, Quinn would partake in 100 hours community service in lieu of three month imprisonment. The charge for dangerously driving a defective vehicle was taken into consideration.