10 Aug 2022

Portlaoise garda had to jump out of car's way


Portlaoise garda had to jump out of car's way

A 27-year-old man who drove at speed through a checkpoint forcing a garda to jump out of the way has been given a four-year sentence, with the final two years suspended.

Before Portlaoise Circuit Court was Sean Coss of Pallas Lake, Bluebell, Tullamore, charged with endangerment, on March 29, 2016.

Details of the offence are that gardaí observed a car being driven with its headlights off at Clonminam Industrial Estate and they signaled it to stop, but the car drove off at speed failing to stop at any junction it came to.

A garda checkpoint was set up, but the driver made no attempt to slow down and a garda had to jump out of the way. The car continued on at speed and finally drove through a gate into a field, at which point the driver and a passenger exited.

The car was registered to the accused’s wife and he made no admissions when questioned by the gardaí.

Defence, Mr Colm Hennessy said his client had 148 previous convictions, 90-odd of which were for road traffic matters. He said this was the accused’s first time in the circuit court, with all other matters dealt with in the district court.

Mr Hennessy said a very detailed psychiatric report indicated the accused’s pretty grim upbringing in which he had suffered physical, mental and social abuse. He was homeless for many years during his adolescence, said defence, and has spent an incredible amount of time in custody.

“He’s no stranger to the system,” said Mr Hennessy.

He said the accused had been assessed at an extremely low intellectual range, with 2% cognitive ability which leads him to struggle to consider cause and effect.

He said the accused has mental health difficulties and poor literacy, and is a psychologically and cognitively vulnerable man.

He doesn’t do drugs, which Mr Hennessy said was extraordinary given the struggles his immediate family had gone through.

“He had an utterly dysfunctional upbringing and an utterly dysfunctional life,” said defence.

Mr Hennessy said the accused intended upon his release from prison to go to work in the UK.

The matter was adjourned to April 9 for the accused to provide written confirmation of the job offer. Urinalysis was also directed on the accused for that date.

When the case returned to court on April 9, Mr Hennessy handed in the letter on behalf of the accused. He said the author of the letter was available to be contacted by the gardaí.

In sentencing, Judge Keenan Johnson said it was fortunate no one had been killed in the incident and the garda who had to jump out of the way of the accused’s car must have been frightened.

Judge Johnson said this was a serious case of dangerous driving and endangerment and the accused did not appreciate the gravity of the offence.

He also noted that the accused was assessed at a high risk of reoffending and had 148 previous convictions, including 93 road traffic matters.

“He has spent more time in prison than out of it over the last ten years,” said Judge Johnson.

Mitigating factors considered by the court was the accused’s difficult upbringing and the fact he was cognitively vulnerable.

Judge Johnson imposed a four-year sentence, with the final two years suspended for eight years on condition the accused enter into a peace bond for eight years, he obtains employment after release, and he avails of all mental health services.

The sentence was backdated to November 19, 2018.

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