Tuesday 23 January 2018

Mechanic who drove three miles with man on bonnet cleared of charges

Deborah McAleese

A mechanic who drove for three miles with a man clinging to the bonnet of his car, says he should not have been prosecuted.

Gerry Brown was fleeing from an argument with the man when he gave chase and jumped on the bonnet of his car. Mr Brown said he was too frightened to stop, and decided to drive to the nearest police station with the man clinging to the front of his Mercedes.

While he was driving Mr Brown made an emergency 999 call to police asking for assistance, but said they advised him that no officers were currently available and ordered him to stop the car.

The slightly-built 53-year-old was stopped by police three miles down the road in Newcastle, Co Down, with the man still on the bonnet. He was arrested and charged with assault, dangerous driving and driving while using a mobile phone.

But after a two-year fight for justice, the Castlewellan man has been cleared of all charges by a District Judge.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Brown defended his actions and said he should never have been prosecuted.

“I really thought I was in danger. I don’t feel that I had any other choice but to keep driving. I wasn’t driving fast, about 30mph and he had plenty of chances to get off. I phoned the police to tell them there was someone on the bonnet of my car and I was too afraid to stop. I told them to get someone there quick as it was an emergency. They said there was nobody available and kept telling me I had to stop, but I told them I wasn’t stopping until I got to the police station. They told me I couldn’t drive down the Main Street of Newcastle with someone on the bonnet of my car and I said ‘yes I can.’”

Mr Brown added: “Some people will say I did the right thing, others will say I shouldn’t have driven off, but you can’t really judge it until you are in the situation.

“He was a big guy and I believed he would harm me if he got me. I just wish it had never got this far.”

The situation came about after Mr Brown sold a second-hand car for £350 (€410) to Lesley Quirey. The car broke down a week later and Mr Quirey, with his uncle Philip Quirey, arrived at the yard where Mr Brown was working in Annsborough, just outside Castlewellan, in February 2008, looking for a refund. The Quireys did not have the car with them and a disagreement broke out.

Mr Brown said he sensed that he could be in danger and jumped into his car and drove away.

“Philip Quirey ran around to the back of his car, where there was a Staffordshire bull terrier and pickaxe handle and I immediately thought that something wasn’t right. I just wanted to get out of there,” said Mr Brown.

He added: “They followed me in their car through Castlewellan. I had to stop at temporary traffic lights and Philip Quirey got out of his car and ran over to mine.

“I saw him coming through my wing mirror and I locked the doors as I didn’t want him getting at me. He started banging on the car with his fists then jumped on the bonnet. He is a very big man, about 6ft 4 and about 19 stone and he left a dent in the bonnet. All I could think of was to keep driving and to get to the police station.”

Three miles down the road in Newcastle Mr Brown was pulled over by police and arrested.

Mr Brown said: “I have had this hanging over me for two years and I am glad that it is finally over. I’ll be careful about who I sell a car to in the future.”

I don’t think he had any choice but to drive on, argues judge

After listening to a recording of the 999 call Gerry Brown made to police, Downpatrick District Judge Mr Mervyn Bates dismissed all charges against the Castlewellan man.

In the recording Mr Brown can be heard shouting: “I’ve got a New Zealander on the bonnet of my car. He’s f****** lost it. He’s going to kill me. I’m not stopping. This man is going to kill me. He’s three times the size of me.”

Clearing Mr Brown, Mr Bates said he was “extremely satisfied that these two men, heavily-built, were intent on intimidating Mr Brown, who is of slight build, into doing something or refunding cash.

“I accept as a fact that Mr Brown drove at moderate speed and did not swerve despite his obvious concern and fear that I could hear in his voice.

“I don’t think he had a choice but to drive on with Mr Quirey on the bonnet of his car.”

Philip Quirey had told Downpatrick District Court that he had approached Mr Brown in his vehicle to talk to him about his nephew’s discontent and said that he was shocked when the defendant drove into him, forcing him onto the bonnet of his car.

Mr Quirey admitted having a Staffordshire bull terrier in the boot of his car, but denied this was to intimidate the defendant. He also denied having an offensive weapon in the boot, saying a pickaxe handle was a toy for the dog.

However, Mr Bates ruled that Mr Quirey’s evidence was “unreliable” and said that he was surprised that no prosecutions had been brought against the Quireys in relation to the contents of their car.

Source: Belfast Telegraph

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