Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Louth man spared prison sentence for his part in high-speed pursuit


Declan Brennan


Declan Brennan

Caused criminal damage during Dundalk burglary


A man has been spared a prison sentence for his part in a high-speed pursuit after a court heard he is now acting as a mentor to other prisoners.


Lawyers for John Lawrence (29) told Judge Karen O'Connor at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he has completed a programme in addiction studies and social sciences and is now volunteering with a prison after care programme.


The court heard testimonials from professionals that Lawrence's involvement with the prison peer led mentoring programme is “inspiring”. One referee said his experience as a mentor is invaluable in helping others remain crime free and not return to prison.


Lawrence of St Laurence's Drive, Drogheda, Co Louth pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen caravan at Barberstown Road, Maynooth, Co Kildare on January 31, 2019. He also pleaded guilty to driving in a way that created a substantial risk of death or serious harm to others at various locations in Tallaght on the same date.


The court heard that on that date, gardaí identified Lawrence driving a Jeep which was towing a caravan. The caravan, worth €12,000, had been stolen from Hertfordshire in England some years earlier.


Gardai stopped Lawrence and were carrying out checks when he unhitched the caravan and drove off at speed.


During a high speed garda pursuit Lawrence drove at speeds over 140 kmph in a 100kmph zone which were busy with commuter traffic. He drove around roundabouts in the wrong direction and forced both gardaí and members of the public to take action to avoid collisions.


The chase came to a halt when gardaí managed to box Lawrence's Jeep in.


Lawrence's previous convictions include theft, deception and road traffic offences.


Judge Karen O'Connor said that when she first heard the evidence she believed a prison sentence could not be avoided but said that subsequently she has heard “extraordinary” mitigation.


Emer Ní Chúagáin BL, defending, told the court that her client has taken steps to address the causes of his past criminal behaviour. She said that his acceptance on the degree programme at Trinity College, through the university's access programme, was a difficult placement to get.


Testimonials provided to the court demonstrated his remorse and regret over certain life choices, she said.


Judge O'Connor noted evidence that Lawrence is committed to becoming a leader in his own community “which can only benefit from positive role models”.


She said he has taken full responsibility for his past actions. She suspended prison terms of two years on condition that Lawrence continue with his studies and continue his voluntary work with prisoners.