Sunday 19 August 2018

Garda thought he would die on 'day of mayhem' as he tried to seize vehicle of woman high on crack, court hears

The scene of the incident (inset Christina Joyce)
The scene of the incident (inset Christina Joyce)

Sonya McLean

A garda has said he expected to die the day a woman, who was high on crack cocaine, accelerated away as he was attempting to seize her vehicle.

Garda Thomas Gallagher (39) read his victim impact statement during the sentence hearing of Christina Joyce (30) who was later jailed for four and half years.

The garda said he felt he had to hold onto the door of the Volvo car to stop himself being pulled under the vehicle.

He told Judge Martin Nolan: “There was nothing I could do. If I let go (of the driver's door) I would be dragged under the car. I had nowhere to go. I accepted at that stage I was dead. The speed we were going I thought there was no way I wouldn't be killed.”

Gda Gallagher said he noticed that Joyce seemed to be driving her vehicle in the direction of a parked car across the road so he felt he had to let go of the door. He fell to the ground and skidded into the parked car.

Gda Gallagher said at that point, he was convinced that “everything below my knee was gone, that it was shattered. I consider myself extremely lucky that I am alive and able to walk.”

Gda Gallagher, who was taken to hospital by ambulance, dislocated his knee and had to remain in a brace for eight weeks. He also badly injured his shoulder and had been told he cannot return to playing sports for about two years.

He said fitness was very important to him so this was a major life change for him. The father of two, said his wife also has a chronic back condition and usually had to rely on him for much of the work around the house. He was not able to assist her in this way while he was in the brace.

Gda Gallagher, who has been in an Garda Siochana for 14 years, has not yet returned to work.

Joyce, a mother of three of no fixed abode, was sent forward from the District Court to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on signed pleas of guilty. She admitted endangering Gda Gallagher and assaulting him causing him harm on April 9, 2018.

She also admitted two charges of trespass, damaging a wall and damaging a car on the same date.

She has 67 previous convictions for assault, failure to appear, public order, drugs, theft and fraud, road traffic offences, assaulting a police officer and criminal damage.

Keith Spencer BL, defending said his client was one of 14 siblings and was taken into care as a three week old baby. She has since been placed in 23 different foster families.

She began self harming at nine years old and has been rescued by gardaí from the River Liffey following suicide attempts. Joyce is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from both auditory and visual hallucinations, counsel said.

Sergeant Ronan Waldron told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting that Joyce, who had a male passenger with her, continued to drive at speed after her encounter with Gda Gallagher and ultimately crashed into a Dublin City Council van.

Joyce and the man then broke into the home of a 77-year-old woman, in bid to escape gardaí but her accomplice kicked down the woman's back door so that they could continue fleeing from gardaí. They broke into a second nearby apartment where gardaí found them and arrested them.

There was €1,622 worth of damage caused to the wall of a building Joyce had earlier crashed into and €1,200 worth of damage was caused to a parked car she and her accomplice had jumped on top of to scale a wall.

Sgt Waldron accepted a suggestion from Mr Spencer that there was marks on Joyce's arms, consistent with self harming, when she was first spotted in the vehicle that day.

Judge Nolan said Gda Gallagher had “no option but to grab the driver's door to stop being run over”. He said Joyce was “intent on getting rid of him”.

The judge said it was “a morning of mayhem” committed while Joyce was “under the influence of crack cocaine” and noted that Joyce had injured three people, caused criminal damage and entered two houses in an attempt to evade arrest.

He accepted that Joyce had a difficult upbringing, with no parental supervision.

Judge Nolan imposed a four and half year sentence which he said must be consecutive to a term Joyce is already serving for assault and theft. She was on bail for these offences in April and was due for release next September.

He disqualified her from driving for six years. Judge Nolan refused an application by Mr Spencer to suspend part of the sentence act as an incentive for his client.

“She will go to jail again if she commits crime again. I don't think she needs a suspended sentence as an incentive,” Judge Nolan commented.

Mr Spencer said his client was “shocked and ashamed when she heard the evidence” and had written a letter of apology to Gda Gallagher.

He said Joyce was left with disfiguring injuries after her face was slashed when she was attending her methadone clinic, so she had “huge empathy” for Gda Gallagher.

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