The country is `on the verge of anarchy` said Judge MacBride when he heard the case of a Fermanagh man who was pursued by a garda in a high speed chase and later drove his van with the garda holding onto the side of it.
The judge sentenced the man to eight months in Wheatfield Prison, and other concurrent sentences.
The court heard that on the first occasion the defendant `escaped` into Northern Ireland. However, he was caught the second time, after “ramming” the patrol car, and driving his vehicle while the garda was holding onto it.
The defendant, Colm McGuigan (24), Springrove, Roslea, Co Fermanagh, was given eight months for dangerous driving at Fermanagh Street, Clones on 2nd June this year, and disqualified from driving for 10 years.
He was given a concurrent four months and a concurrent 10-year disqualification for drunken driving on the same occasion and a concurrent two-month sentence for failing to stop for a garda at The Diamond, Clones, on the same date.
The defendant was also given a four-month sentence and disqualified from driving for 10 years, both concurrently, for driving without insurance at Fermanagh Street, Clones on 2nd June. Two other dangerous driving charges, a criminal damage charge and another charge of failing to stop for a garda were marked taken into consideration by Judge MacBride, who also ordered that the defendant re-sit his driving and theory test before applying to have his licence restored.
Inspector Noel Cunningham told Judge MacBride that Garda Wilson was on duty when he first observed the defendant travelling in a Ford Transit van. After the defendant failed to stop when signalled to do so, the garda pursued him. The defendant drove in an erratic and extremely dangerous manner, at speed, and drove recklessly through a red light before making good his escape into Co Fermanagh at the end of the Newtownbutler Road.
Later, however, Garda Wilson observed and pursued the same vehicle. The defendant again tried to make good his escape, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and moving his vehicle, when at one point during the chase the garda had exited his vehicle and was holding onto the defendant`s van. The garda later arrested the defendant after he reversed and collided with the patrol car. McGuigan was subsequently found to have had 89 micrograms of alcohol on his breath. Pleading guilty to all charges through solicitor Paul Madden, the defendant was heard to have previous convictions for driving offences, burglary and theft.
Mr Madden conceded that the behaviour of the single man who lives at home was “absolutely scandalous” and submitted letters to Judge MacBride from a member of the community and a Diocesan Youth Officer. He said a third party, whose vehicle was damaged in the offence, had been fully compensated, and he urged the court to consider ordering the preparation of a probation report. He also said the defendant, who was working, had raised §4,000 for Garda Wilson.
Judge MacBride said the defendant had treated the garda like a piece of meat and would not be buying his way out of jail, as even six figures would not compensate Garda Wilson for what he had gone through. He commented that charges of endangerment and dangerous driving causing bodily harm might have been preferred against the defendant, because it was such a bad case.
Mr Madden called McGuigan to the witness stand, where the defendant said he had stopped drinking, his mind was mixed up at the time and he would never do such a thing again.
Judge MacBride reminded the defendant of some of the facts such as the ramming of the patrol car. “I`m going to do what I have to do ... with my conscience and hearing what I have heard,” said the judge, who added that the country is on the verge of anarchy with very serious threats to law and order and that the courts must protect An Garda Siochana.
He said the defendant wilfully drove off with Garda Wilson effectively attached to the vehicle, causing him horrendous injuries, physically and psychologically. “I would be in breach of my duty if I did not impose a sentence.” He said he gave the defendant credit for his guilty plea and imposed the custodial sentence, recommending that the defendant is transferred from Wheatfield to Castlerea Prison to receive alcohol addiction treatment and counselling. He fixed recognisances at §4,000.