Thursday 19 April 2018

Driver (21) was over limit, hit two gardai and sped at 200kmph on the by-pass

Suspended sentence and five year ban for 'one of the worst cases ever to come before district court'

A 21-year-old who dragged a Garda along the road as he tried to get across the border in his Audi reached speeds of 200kmph.

And the driver managed to evade armed Gardai who deployed a stinger device on the Inner Relief Road by ramming a patrol car.

Gardai at Dundalk District Court last week gave details of the shocking incident which started at Seatown at around 3.20am on July 9 2016, which was described as 'one of the worst to come before this court'.

Judge Flann Brennan was told that the DPP had allowed the case to be dealt with at the district court, instead of the circuit, but only if guilty pleas were entered.

Shane Hanratty, Castleblayney Road, Tullyard Cross, Crossmaglen, admitted five dangerous driving charges and one each of endangerment and criminal damage.

Sgt. Fintain McGroder said Gardai on duty at Seatown spotted Hanratty pulling away from O'Carroll's Pub and watched as he drove the wrong way up Chapel Street. They followed him to Roden Place where they saw him pull up outside Eno Restaurant and a number of people got into the car.

Gardai activated the blue lights and sirens and one officer got out of his car to speak to the driver and was in the process of taking the keys out of the ignition when Hanratty took off at high speed, dragging the Garda metres up the street. He was uninjured and got back into the patrol car to follow Hanratty on Francis Street and into Park Street.

Two other Gardai on beat patrol tried to stop the car while it sat in traffic and again tried to take the keys out of the ignition but Hanratty managed to get around the traffic in front of him, knocking the Garda to the ground as he took off again. There were a large number of pedestrians in the area and Gardai said they feared for the people's safety.

Hanratty went onto the Ramparts and failed to stop at junctions, heading towards the Inner Relief Road. He actually increased speed at Dundalk Tennis Club and at Aura Leisure Centre before driving through a red light at the Quay Street junction on the Inner Relief Road.

Hanratty continued speeding North but at the St Helena junction, members of the armed Regional Response Unit were waiting for him. They mounted a checkpoint and deployed a stinger device on the road to stop him. But Hanratty reversed at speed, ramming the patrol car, mounted the kerb and got away again. It cost €1600 to fix the patrol car.

As he headed towards the Ballymac roundabout, Gardai said Hanratty reached speeds of 200kmph and twice almost lost control of his car at the roundabouts, forcing other motorists to take evasive action in order to avoid a collision. Gardai said the driving was 'reckless and dangerous' as he continued into Faughart and Gardai lost him when he crossed the border.

Judge Brennan was told the defendant has two previous convictions, including one for dangerous driving from Carrickmacross District Court in June 2014 when he was banned for two years. Gardai noted the ban had only just expired at the time of the Dundalk offence.

Solicitor Paul Tiernan said there was 'no doubt this was one of the worst cases of this nature to come before this court'.

He said his client was drunk on the night after he was out socialising and he 'panicked' when he spotted Gardai. Mr Tiernan said: 'Despite his 21 years, he's somewhat immature' and added Hanratty's family were 'shocked when they realised the extent of what happened'.

He added the family are 'very respectable businesspeople' and they 'take a very stern view of these actions'. The defendant 'was very lucky that someone wasn't seriously injured'.

References from Hanratty's employer, along with ones from 'various people in the community' were handed into Judge Brennan. Mr Tiernan said: 'His parents have assured me that nothing like this will ever happen again. They are absolutely amazed by his actions on the night in question'. Full compensation was handed to Sgt. McGroder by Mr Tiernan who said that while he appreciated 'this is a very bad case, his parents have assured me he's taken their own regime of punishment and since this, he hasn't even socialised'.

Judge Brennan said he would take into account the mitigating factors as outlined by Mr Tiernan but the fact that Hanratty 'was only a couple of weeks past a previous disqualification and that doesn't do any credit'.

He said: 'He just went through a series of actions which made things worse. He did his utmost to evade apprehension, and he did, initially.

'His previous record is a significant aggravating factor. I take into account all that has been said and the fact that compensation has been paid. It's somewhat extraordinary, indeed miraculous, that he didn't hurt anyone in this'.

Fines totalling €1,000 were imposed, along with a six month jail sentence, suspended for six months. Hanratty was disqualified from driving for five years. He was allowed to appeal in his own bond of €100.

And Judge Brennan told him: 'Independent of the sentences I have imposed here, you will serve them if you get into any trouble in the next six months. I can guarantee you that I will jail you if you come near me again. The public has to be protected from you'.

Irish Independent