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‘I thought I was going to die’ - Garda

‘I thought I was going to die’ - Garda

A GARDA told a court sitting that he thought he was going to die when he fell into a bog hole full of water when trying to arrest a man for drink driving.
Garda John Flanagan told last week’s sitting of Achill District Court that he was trying to arrest Niall Cawley of Gortnaclasser, Clogher, Westport when they slipped and fell into a bog hole. Garda Flanagan said he fell back first into three feet of water with Mr Cawley on top of him and described it as a frightening experience.
“I fell from a seven or eight foot high bank into two or three feet of water and I was completely submerged in it on my back. I ended up in a big hole full of water with the driver [Mr Cawley] on top of me. It was a frightening experience and I though I was going to die,” he said.
Garda Flanagan and his collegue Garda Michael Mullany had followed Mr Cawley up a bog road after he drove away from them after he was being arrested for drink driving on January 30 last. Mr Cawley was also charged with dangerous driving and assault but denied all the charges.
The court heard that at 11.15pm on January 30, the two gardaí noticed a jeep veering from left to right on the Westport to Castlebar Road at Kilbree Lower, Islandeady and pulled it over. Garda Flanagan said he spoke to the driver who gave his name as Michael Cawley and arrested him for drink driving.
As he was being arrested, Garda Flanagan said the driver ‘suddenly put the vehicle into gear’ and took off which resulted in the open door hitting him and knocking him over. The gardaí pursued the vehicle for over 7km down minor roads and it failed to stop. The jeep turned down a bog road at Derrardan, Westport and was forced to come to a stop when it could not get past bags of turf which were in the middle of the road.
Garda Flanagan said the driver had to be forcibly removed and during the struggle Garda Flanagan lost his footing and fell into the bog hole and had to be rescued by Garda Mullany.
Mr Cawley was eventually arrested and brought to Castlebar Garda Station where he provided a breath sample which showed he was over the drink driving limit. Mr Cawley also admitted that he had given a false name at the station.
In his evidence Mr Cawley denied that he assaulted Garda Flanagan with the door and claimed it was closed. He claimed Garda Flanagan caught him by the throat when he first approached him and as a result his foot slipped off the clutch and the jeep moved forward. He claimed he did not know who had approached and panicked and thought someone was trying to beat him up.
He also denied struggling with the gardaí in the bog road and claimed that Garda Flanagan slipped when he ran at him.
Mr Cawley denied he was a ‘fantasist’ and claimed he had been beaten up in similar circumstance before.
Judge Mary Devins convicted him of drink driving and assault but reduced the charge of  dangerous driving to careless. The court heard that Mr Cawley is currently disqualified from driving and has two previous convictions for drink driving and one for resisting arrest.
Mr James Ward, solicitor for the defendant said his client had an alcohol problem which was the ‘root’ of all his troubles but had now stopped drinking. He asked the judge to consider community service rather than sending him to prison.
Judge Devins said that for a third conviction for drink driving she should send him to prison but would consider community service instead. She adjourned sending until November 30 to consider Mr Cawley’s suitability for community service and if he is found suitable, she would sentence him to 200 hours community service in lieu of six months imprisonment. Mr Cawley was also disqualified from driving  for six years and fined €1,250.