A JUVENILE who stole a car before going on a reckless 20-mile joyride along the N17 between Tuam and Claremorris was jailed for 12 months at last week’s sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court.
The incident took place on August 20, 2011 shortly after 5pm and the court heard that the youth drove on the incorrect side of one of the busiest roads and rammed two garda cars before crashing.
‘Outrageous and appalling’
The 17 year old, who cannot be named because of his age, was told by Judge Thomas E O’Donnell that his driving was ‘outrageous and appalling’ and that he had placed the lives of innocent people at risk.
Sergeant Anthony Lavery said that after stealing an Opel Zafira in Claremorris, the youth drove towards Tuam, where he was reported for undertaking cars along the hard shoulder. As he drove back towards Milltown, he drove on the hard shoulder on the incorrect side of the road and drove at speed through the village.
At this stage he was being pursued by a Tuam Garda patrol car. However, after he overtook a number of cars in dangerous manoeuvres, the gardaí called off the chase. They remained behind the car, however. After leaving Milltown the driver was observed overtaking a line of cars and a bus as he approached a blind corner, the scene of a previous fatal accident.
Patrol cars rammed
Sergeant Anthony Lavery said the Claremorris patrol car was called to assist as the youth drove on the wrong side of the road. The Tuam car then overtook the Opel, but was rammed three times. Oncoming traffic had to be warned, as the youth continued to drive in a reckless manner.
Sgt Lavery explained that the Knock Novena was taking place at the time and that the gardaí wanted to stop the car leaving the N17 for Knock in order to protect those attending the religious ceremony. The Claremorris patrol car tried to block the Opel at an exit, but was rammed by the car. The patrol car was rammed again when it tried to block the next exit. Eventually, as the gardaí tried to stop the car, it swerved out of control and hit a pole before coming to a halt.
The youth was arrested and a blood test was positive for alcohol but he was not over the limit. The court heard the youth had no convictions at the time but has since received 20 convictions and served one month in St Patrick’s Institute.
Sgt Lavery said that in excess of €3,500 of damage was caused to the two patrol cars and the stolen car was written off. Sgt Lavery added that the defendant has expressed remorse for what he did.
Mr Diarmuid Connolly, BL for the defendant said the theft of the car was opportunist, as the keys were left in it. He also said that the 17 year-old had since stopped drinking and was attending Youth Reach.
Judge O’Donnell said he could only assume the ‘shock, terror and disbelief’ of the drivers who came upon the youth as he endangered their lives. He said the amount of lives put at risk could not be overlooked and sentenced him to 12 months’ detention for reckless endangerment. Other sentences for dangerous driving and the unlawful taking of an MPV are to run concurrently. The youth was also disqualified from driving for seven years.