A MAN with 247 previous convictions has avoided jail despite putting motorists' lives in danger by driving up the motorway the wrong way.
A judge yesterday told Patrick Cotter (54) "don't come out of Cork".
At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan also stated that he wants Cotter of Church St, Bandon, Co Cork to give up his charity work that involved him travelling around and "to just the watch the television from now on".
Judge Durcan made his comments before giving Mr Cotter a suspended 10-month prison term and a 10-year driving ban "for the worst driving case I have come across in my three and a half years on the bench".
The judge said that Mr Cotter, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, "is, when unwell, a massive danger to the public".
Judge Durcan said that the evidence in the case "was truly horrific" and that Mr Cotter's record of 247 previous convictions that included 23 for drink driving; 26 for driving without insurance; nine for hit and run; five for careless driving and two for dangerous driving "is something I have never come across before". Judge Durcan said that 79 prison terms have previously been imposed on Mr Cotter and 26 suspended sentences.
In court yesterday, Mr Cotter spoke for the first time on the case and apologised.
Mr Cotter said that "I would like to apologise for the confusion..." that prompted Judge Durcan to interject "not confusion, danger you caused" and Mr Cotter replied "yes, especially to Garda John Reidy and only for him being there at the scene, I think this would be a totally different court case".
Judge Durcan praised Garda Reidy for his courage when putting his life at risk in keeping up with Mr Cotter on his Garda motorcycle as they sped 180kph along the motorway for 16km before Mr Cotter came to a stop at Crusheen. In evidence, Garda Reidy said that there were 'a number of close calls' for motorists who avoided colliding with Mr Cotter driving his Mercedes car the wrong way down motorway lanes linking Limerick to Ennis.
Garda Reidy said that there were three episodes of Mr Cotter driving against traffic on the wrong side of the motorway on June 18 last.
Mr Cotter was before the court having pleaded guilty to six separate charges of dangerous driving in relation to a series of incidents along a 41 km stretch of motorway from Cratloe to Crusheen.
At the time of the incident, Mr Cotter was banned from driving after receiving a driving ban in 2012 at Limerick Circuit Court for 30 years.