A 47 year old man who rammed two garda patrol vehicles, after he drove at a garda who was manning a checkpoint, was given suspended sentences totalling two years at Dundalk Circuit Court last week along with a three year driving ban.
The court was told that a garda who suffered a serious back injury has been off work since the incident happened almost two years ago.
Jarlath Higgins of Caraban, Ravensdale, Dundalk had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at the Tain Bridge and causing criminal damage to the patrol cars at Faughart Lower in the early hours of November 18th 2015.
The court heard events began, when the accused approached a checkpoint north of the Tain Bridge.
A uniformed garda signalled the Renault Megane to stop, but Jarlath Higgins accelerated towards the officer, who was forced to clear from the path of the car. The other gardai believed the accused deliberately drove at the garda.
Jarlath Higgins continued driving at speed out the Inner Relief Road and through the Red Cow Roundabout and when one of the patrol cars pulled alongside, the accused swerved to the right – striking it, before hitting it two more times and both vehicles swerved into a concrete bollard between the two carriageways.
The garda from the checkpoint got out to speak to the defendant, but Jarlath Higgins reversed the Megane the wrong way down the dual carriageway and undertook the second patrol car, which he subsequently struck.
The court heard the Megane ‘violently fishtailed’ on the Ballymac roundabout, and took the Faughart exit and deliberately collided again with one of the patrol cars. The accused came to a stop on the M1 flyover and was blocked in, and aggressively revved his car engine before he was restrained.
Seven and a half thousand euro worth of damage as caused to the garda vehicles, and the Garda who was injured, had surgery to remove a disc in his neck and a metal plate inserted. He continues to suffer neck and back pain and has not returned to work.
The Defence barrister said her client – who works for a big international company in Dundalk as a customer support specialist, has not come to garda attention before or since the incident.
While he was not charged with drink driving, the barrister said alcohol was in the background to what happened and he had completely overreacted in a moment of madness when he’d approached the checkpoint.
She added that he himself had been the victim of a stabbing in 2003 and he had attended a consultant psychiatrist following the incident before the court and had not driven since due to a self-imposed driving ban.
Judge Michael O’Shea praised the extraordinary steps of bravery the gardai had taken in apprehending the accused, who he said should have simply stopped at the checkpoint.