Sunday 25 February 2018

Man jailed for 'aggressive and life-threatening' attack on garda

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Andrew Phelan

A father-of-two has been jailed for three years for driving a speeding van straight at a garda, narrowly avoiding hitting him in a “life-threatening” incident.

Cornelius Price (35) nearly struck the officer as he chased a man in a car “aggressively and dangerously” outside a garda station.

The terrified garda had to jump out of the way, later considered resigning from the force and still got “flashbacks and chills” whenever he passed the scene.

Price, with an address at Rockleigh House, Richardstown, Gormanston, Co Meath, had denied reckless endangerment at Balbriggan Garda Station on January 22, 2014.

He was found guilty at trial by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Today, Judge Patricia Ryan imposed a three-year prison sentence, backdating it to February 17.

The maximum sentence for endangerment is seven years and Judge Ryan said she was taking into account the fact that Price was playing a substantial role in the care of his children.

Defence barrister Tony McGillicuddy said Price’s partner suffered from depression and was on an “amount of medication.”

He had “substantial” parenting duties as a result. Some relatives would be able to take over in his absence but it was going to be a “loss to his family and to his children,” Mr McGillicuddy said.

The 10 and a half months he had spent in custody on another charge - which he was acquitted of - had brought shame and embarrassment to his family.

Price had also suffered recent bereavements- his grandfather died last year and he had been unable to go to the funeral.

His mother and aunt had medical difficulties. The court heard Price did not drink or smoke.

Judge Ryan said she would take the effect of his time in custody on his family into consideration.

An aggravating factor was the serious nature of the charge committed against a member of the gardai in the execution of his duty, she said.

She took account of Price’s educational achievements and voluntary work in custody.

Price, wearing a grey tracksuit and black runners, spoke to confirm he had been with his partner for 17 years.

The judge also took Price’s 18 previous convictions into consideration.

Previously Sgt Mark Buckley told Diarmuid Collins, for the prosecution, that Garda Gary Dillane and Garda Sean Caffrey were on duty at the station at 9.35pm.

They observed and heard two vehicles racing down the Harry Reynolds Road - a grey Hyundai Accent followed by a grey Ford Transit van.

The van appeared to be chasing the car and was swerving back and forth to the wrong side of the road. Sgt Buckley agreed that the transit van had appeared to be driving in an “aggressive and dangerous” manner. Price was driving.

The Hyundai pulled in to the gates of the garda station and the driver had a “fearful expression” and was repeatedly beeping the horn.

The transit van followed the car into the garda station car park, where it “looped around.”

Garda Dillane was standing outside the station and decided to stop the van. He was in full garda uniform and placed his right hand up in the air to halt it.

He shouted “stop” but it failed to do so and continued to drive straight at him at speed. The vehicle lights and car park lights were on and Garda Gillane continued to hold his hand in the air.

The court heard when Garda Dillane became aware the van was not going to stop, he took evasive action and jumped out of the way.

The garda felt a pain in his leg when he landed and the van narrowly missed striking him. He believed he would have been seriously injured if he had no jumped out of the way.

The van exited the car park and turned left back onto the Harry Reynolds Road, where it drove off at high speed.

Price denied that he drove the van in the fashion stated and said he had not seen any garda with his hand up.

In a victim impact statement, Garda Dillane said he still got flashbacks. The following day he spoke to his parents and his mother “started crying.” His father said he knew he loved being a garda but asked if it was worth it if he was “lying in a coffin or six feet under.”

Garda Dillane considered resigning but decided to stay in his job.

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