John Brown, 29 Riverside Apartments, Ballinamore was convicted of reckless endangerment when he appeared before Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court last week and sentenced to two and half years in prison, with the final 18 months suspended.
The court heard from Gda Damien Cosgrove that on May 3, 2016 at 12.15pm he received a call from Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station in relation to a car acting suspiciously. The person who made the call said the driver of the vehicle was stopping at houses and looking into them.
Gda Cosgrove said he went to look for the vehicle but was unable to locate it. He discovered upon investigation that the vehicle was registered to a woman living in Ballinamore, the partner of the defendant.
Later that evening a report was received of the same vehicle driving dangerously and that he nearly knocked down an elderly woman.
Gda Cosgrove went to look for the vehicle again and discovered it parked on Church St, Ballinamore with no occupants. Gda Cosgrove had a vehicle behind him so he moved further up Church St to turn and come back towards the vehicle. When he returned he saw the vehicle in question being driven by the defendant, John Brown.
Gda Cosgrove observed him putting his two arms in front of his face as if surrendering.
Gda Cosgrove continued, “As I was getting out of the patrol van I heard a Ford Galaxy revving.”
At the top of Church St Mr Brown reversed into the gateway of a house. “I was hesitant as to what he was going to do next as he had driven away already.
Gda Cosgrove recalled, “As I had one foot outside the van I heard revving. He made no attempt to go around the patrol van and collided with the front of the patrol van.”
“He drove forward and collided with the van a second time.”
Gda Cosgrove stated that he had activated the blue lights and was in full Garda uniform.
Mr Brown was observed locking the doors of his car with Gda Cosgrove stating he withdrew his baton and he smashed the window of the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant then “Drove forward as if he was going to knock me down.”
Mr Brown hit the van again before reversing and driving away.
Gda Cosgrove pursued the defendant recalling, “When the adrenaline wore off my legs went cold and I went to jelly.”
Gda Cosgrove stopped the pursuit and was subsequently cut from the patrol van by Fire Brigade personnel and was taken by ambulance to hospital adding he was off work for 16 months.
Mr Brown continued driving in the direction of Cavan before being arrested by Cavan Gardaí.
Representing the defence Niall Flynn BL said, “Mr Brown instructs me to apologise.”
Gda Cosgrove replied, “I met him outside the court and he apologised and I shook his hand.”
When it was put to him by Mr Flynn that the defendant admitted he was under the influence of an intoxicant Gda Cosgrove replied, “I believe so.
“He admitted everything I believe.”
Sgt Cara Curry gave evidence saying she took up matters as the investigating officer and on September 15, 2016 arrested John Brown on suspicion of endangerment having met the defendant by appointment at Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station.
Outlining the defendant's circumstances Sgt Curry said Mr Brown is originally from Killeshandra and moved to Ballinamore two years ago. He is in a relationship with a woman from Ballinamore and they have seven children together.
The court heard the defendant has 17 previous convictions for offences including dangerous driving, no insurance, driving without insurance, failing to produce a driving licence, driving without a driving licence and hasn’t come to the attention of Gardaí since the incident in question.
Under cross-examination from Mr Flynn, Sgt Curry agreed the defendant, “Accepted responsibility,” and complied with all of his bail conditions.
When asked if his actions could be deemed out of character, Sgt Curry replied, “I had no dealings with him before that.”
Addressing the court, Mr Flynn stated, the defendant “is clearly ashamed of his behaviour on the day in question,” adding that he “made full, unprompted admissions.”
Mr Flynn referred to the probation report which said the defendant was drinking poitin on the day in question. “He acknowledges he was disqualified at the time and panicked.”
Mr Flynn stated the defendant has “A history of addictions and binge drinking. He is deemed a moderate risk of re-offending rather than a high risk like many struggling with addictions.
“He is a different person here today than the one behind the wheel two years ago.”
Acknowledging the fact that, “it was only by luck Gda Cosgrove didn’t suffer more serious injuries,” Mr Flynn added, “I ask the court to dispose of the matter in the most lenient manner.”
Mr Flynn stressed a custodial sentence “has the potential to have a significant impact on the family unit.”
Having heard the evidence Judge John Aylmer said, “This is a very serious offence of reckless endangerment. It is clear Gda Cosgrove suffered very serious injuries.
“It is an offence that merits three and a half years in prison before taking into account the mitigating circumstances and I place it in the mid-range.
“It is clear that the root cause was he was on an alcohol binge.”
Judge Aylmer added, “I must give him the fullest possible credit for the mitigating circumstances,” saying the mitigating factors were significant enough to reduce the sentence from three and a half years to two and a half years.
Judge Aylmer stressed, “It is not possible to deal with on the basis of a non-custodial sentence.”
Judge Aylmer imposed a two and a half year sentence with the final 18 months suspended upon the defendant entering a bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years subsequent to being released; abstain from alcohol; comply with all directions of the probation services and undergo whatever counselling is recommended.