A Rathdowney man has been given a suspended jail sentence for endangering a garda’s life, after the garda was carried some 10m on his car before being thrown into the air when the man made good his escape for driving without insurance.
At last week’s sitting of Portlaoise District Court, Darryl Bergin, 21, Middlemount, Rathdowney, was charged with no insurance, endangerment, and dangerous driving.
Sgt JJ Kirby gave evidence that on May 4 last year, at Grantstown, Ballacolla, Garda Stephen O’Hanlon was attempting to get the accused to stop his car and he placed his hand on the keys in the ignition.
The accused drove off at this point, carrying the garda on the car for some 10m and throwing him up into the air. The garda suffered injuries to his arm and was off work for a month.
He was badly shaken by the incident, said Sgt Kirby.
Garda O’Hanlon gave evidence, saying that he had been a garda 12 years and never had anything like this happen to him before.
He told the court that on the date in question he was instructing the accused to stop as the accused’s vehicle was being turned in the garda’s direction. Garda O’Hanlon said that when he placed his hand on the steering wheel, the accused accelerated and made good his escape.
The accused had six previous convictions.
Defence, Ms Josephine Fitzpatrick said her client wished to absolutely apologise to the garda. On the day, he panicked as he wasn’t insured and turned to drive past the garda. Ms Fitzpatrick said the accused later made himself available at the garda station to face the music.
Defence handed in a letter of apology, as well as letters from the accused’s employer and his mother. Ms Fitzpatrick said he had €1,000 compensation in court, which he had been saving for some time.
Ms Fitzpatrick went on to urge the court not to impose a custodial sentence.
Judge Catherine Staines said this was the most serious incident of dangerous driving involving a garda getting hurt she had seen in the last ten years. She told the accused he could be facing a murder charge and this incident was absolutely appalling.
Judge Staines imposed a ten-month sentence, suspended for one year, and disqualified the accused from driving for eight years.
The charge of no insurance was taken into consideration and the accused was disqualified from driving on this count for two years.
Judge Staines also directed the €1,000 compensation go to Garda O’Hanlon.