Disqualified drink-driver swerved at garda car during 'hillbilly' chase through Laois and Offaly

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Drink-driver swerved at garda car during 'hillbilly' chase through Offaly and Laois

A young drink-driver who swerved at a garda patrol car during a high speed chase in Offaly has been banned from the road for 15 years.

Having heard that flashing lights were shone on gardai pursuing Alastair Smith and that his jeep was airborne on occasions during the event, Judge Keenan Johnson said it was like something from a hillbilly film.

Mr Smith was aged 20 and already disqualified when gardai saw him driving a Suzuki Grand Vitara dangerously in Tullamore town centre at 2.45am on Sunday morning October 15, 2017.

Garda Jean Tierney, driver of a patrol car, said the jeep came from William Street to Hayes Cross with a flashing light on and while going in the middle of the road and making illegal turns, it went out the Clonminch road.

Garda Tierney said she was travelling in excess of 100kph in a 50kph zone while she was behind Mr Smith's vehicle.
As the pursuit continued, Garda Tierney's car was joined by two other patrol cars as the jeep drove across 14 townlands to Clonaslee, Co Laois.

A passenger in the back of the jeep was shining a hunting lamp at the gardai while the chase continued and rubbish and debris was also thrown at the pursuers.

When Garda Tierney drove alongside the jeep it attempted to sideswipe her.

Sparks were visible after the jeep became airborne and the chase concluded when the jeep collided with a tree after going into Clonaslee village. Mr Smith then jumped into the rear seat and was subsequently arrested.

There were three others in the jeep, two males and a female, and one of the passengers was a juvenile.

He pleaded guilty to the endangerment of Garda Tierney, several counts of dangerous driving at different locations, driving without insurance and a licence, and other motoring offences, including having no tax.

Shane Geraghty, BL, prosecuting, said Mr Smith had 10 previous convictions and had a two-year driving ban imposed on him in July 2015 and a four-year ban imposed in November 2015, both for dangerous driving.

The court was told by Gerard Groarke, BL, defending, that the jeep belonged to Mr Smith's father and the incident occurred when his parents were away for the weekend.

Mr Groarke said the accused had been diagnosed with autism and ADHD at an early age and started smoking cannabis at the age of 15.

He also began abusing alcohol but no longer used cannabis and alcohol was also no longer a problem. Psychiatric reports, along with probation reports, were handed in to Judge Johnson to aid his sentencing.

There were also references from Coolraine FC and an employer, Turkish Barber.

The court further heard Mr Smith worked at his father's garage.

In his own evidence, Mr Smith said he had made bad decisions when he was under pressure at the time his father was in hospital receiving chemotherapy and he said he was truly sorry for what he had done.

Along with the hairdressing and mechanical work with his father, he looked after horses and rescued donkeys which would otherwise be slaughtered.

Mr Smith's mother told the court the accused was a different man since the incident, was working and was trying really hard.
Judge Johnson imposed the 15-year disqualification, saying the type of driving was as bad as he'd ever heard and the accused was very lucky it had not been much worse.

When he asked if Mr Smith had funds available, the court was told he was receiving a €200 per week disability payment but hoped to return to work as a barber an earn more.

Judge Johnson adjourned further consideration of sentencing to July 16 next.