Saturday 24 February 2018

Two men jailed for leading gardai on 'manic, mindless' high-speed car chase that left Garda in hospital

The scene on the Mallow Road, Cork when a Garda motorcyclist was injured in the pursuit of a stolen van. Photo Billy MacGill
The scene on the Mallow Road, Cork when a Garda motorcyclist was injured in the pursuit of a stolen van. Photo Billy MacGill

Joe Leogue

TWO men have been sentenced to prison for leading gardai on a “manic, mindless” high-speed car chase through Cork city that left a Garda who is a father-of-two in hospital.

John Paul O’Driscoll, aged 27, with an address at the Simon Community, Cork, and Damian Fitzgerald, aged 26, of 62 Inniscarra Rd, Fairhill, Cork pleaded guilty in Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday to a number of charges relating to the car chase on Good Friday, April 18 last.

The pair led gardai from the Southside of the city into the Northside, driving against the flow of traffic down one way streets and rammed a motorcycle garda who was trying to direct traffic away from the dramatic chase.

Sgt Pat Lyons told the court that the van in which the men were driving was stolen from MacCurtain St on the North side of Cork city the evening before the chase. Judge Seán Ó’Donnabhain heard that the van was then spotted in the grounds of the Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire at 6am on the morning of Good Friday, April 18.

Two men were spotted putting a grey bin into the van and leaving the hotel grounds. The night porter then discovered that a quantity of alcohol had been stolen from the hotel’s function room and called gardai.

The van was next spotted in Passage West, on the outskirts of Cork’s South side, by an-off duty Garda at 8:30am. He contacted gardai on patrol in the city, who came to meet the vehicle as it approached the city suburb of Douglas.

It was then the chase commenced. The van ignored the gardai’s signal to stop, swerved around the patrol car and continued the wrong way around a roundabout before heading into the city.

Sgt Lyons outlined to the court the trail of destruction left in the van’s wake, as it often travelled against the flow of traffic to avoid gardai on its way into the city centre. One car was written off and others were damaged as the van went across the city, through the busy bus station yard, across a one-way bridge against the flow of traffic and into the North side of the city.

As the pair headed north of Cork city, motorcycle Traffic Corps Garda Michael Twomey, who was not involved in the pursuit, stopped traffic at a busy junction on the N20 Cork-Limerick road at Rathduff to make space for the oncoming chase.

The van joined the national route from a minor road, swung to the left back towards the city and hit Garda Twomey who was thrown a considerable distance by the impact of the van.  He was brought to hospital in a neck and back brace and suffered broken ribs and cuts.

After hitting Garda Twomey, the van did not stop and drove at speed on the wrong side of the Main Cork-Limerick dual carriageway towards Cork city. It then went against traffic onto a sliproad towards the countryside. It was later found brought to a stop, with both men leaving the vehicle. The van contained the grey bin filled with a large quantity of alcohol, since identified as the drink missing from the hotel that morning. An open bottle of Jack Daniels was found in the front seat.

The pair were arrested and brought to Gurranabraher Garda Station where Mr O’Driscoll, who was driving the van, was found to be nearly five times over the legal limit.

Sgt Lyons said that the incident has shaken Garda Twomey “quite visibly” and that only time will tell if the avid motorcyclist will ever ride a motorbike on duty again.

He said that the impact was also felt by his partner, another garda who was on duty in the city on the morning of the chase and was aware of Garda Twomey’s injuries via Garda communication.

“This has had a very traumatic affect on him,” Sgt Lyons said.

The court heard that Mr O’Driscoll had 168 previous convictions, including convictions for burglary, assault, possession of knives, arson and dangerous driving and that he was disqualified from driving and uninsured on the day of the chase. Mr Fitzgerald had 191 previous convictions, including convictions for possession of drugs, assault, burglary, hit and run, and public order offences. Mr Fitzgerald had activated four suspended sentences since his first conviction in 2004.

Both men were on bail at the time of the chase.

Judge Ó’Donnabhain said that as the driver of the vehicle, Mr O’Driscoll bears the greater portion of the guilt. He described the driving as “manic” and” mindless” and said that only for the fact that the chase took part on Good Friday, when schools are off and the traffic is lighter, the consequences of their actions could have been much greater.

“He had no regard for people, property or the damage done to anyone,” he said and described Mr O’Driscoll driving as an “incredibly dangerous” desperate, dogged attempt to escape.

Judge Ó’Donnabhain banned Mr O’Driscoll from driving for life, and gave him a total of 12 years in prison for his various charges. When asked if he would agree to keep the peace in exchange for a suspension of the final two years of the sentence, Mr O’Driscoll told Judge Ó’Donnabhain to “fuck off.”

Mr Fitzgerald was given a total of three years for his part in the burglary from the hotel and four years for allowing to be carried in a stolen vehicle. His sentences are to be served concurrently. 


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