A MOTORIST who became “unhinged and lost the run of himself” jumped into the driver’s seat of his car before taking off at speed across rural backroads in North Cork and the only thing that stopped him was crashing into a stone wall.
John Casey, 35, was sentenced to three years in prison with the last one year suspended by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Casey with an address at 112 Larchfield, Commons Road, Cork pleaded guilty to charges including endangerment and dangerous driving at Ashgrove in Mallow on January 29.
Garda Denis Howard of Mallow Garda Station testified that gardaí were operating a checkpoint at Newtwopothouse at lunchtime that day when they stopped a car driven by a woman.
Gardaí went to radio in the woman’s details to check if her insurance and licence were in order when Casey, who was a front seat passenger in the car, swopped over into the driver’s seat and took off at high speed.
He sped off towards Buttevant before turning off down a back road for Kanturk pursued by a number of garda units with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring.
He completely ignored the gardaí during the escapade.
He drove on at high speed along country backroads engaging in dangerous driving and endangering other users on a number of occasions in the course of the 15-minute pursuit.
Garda Howard said, he overtook cars on his incorrect side of the road approaching blind bends where he had no sight of oncoming traffic while he also drove through two junctions where he should have stopped to check on oncoming traffic.
The pursuit finally came to an end at Springville, just outside Kanturk, when Casey hit a stone wall and he fled the scene with gardaí only finding his companion, the woman, uninjured in the crashed car.
Gardai mounted a search and they found Casey hiding under bushes in a nearby field a short time later and he was arrested.
Casey had a total of 132 previous convictions including six for dangerous driving and 19 for driving without insurance and he was disqualified from driving at the time of the incident.
Defence barrister, Katie O’Connell BL put it to Garda Howard that Casey did not plan the episode and Garda Howard accepted that and that Casey was co-operative once he was found in the field and had entered an early guilty plea.
Ms O’Connell asked Judge Sean O’Donnabhain to be as lenient as possible, pointing out that her client had a history of mental health issues and she stressed that there was nothing premeditated about his actions.
“He appears to have been unhinged. He lost the run of himself and took off. It was a moment of madness,” the defence barrister said.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said it was difficult to understand what happened on the day given that Casey was not driving the car when they were stopped by gardaí but for some reason, known only to himself, he took over the driving and almost invited the pursuit by gardaí from Newtwopothouse to Kanturk.
“There is no doubt but that he put the lives of innocent road users at risk. He seemed oblivious to that risk,” the judge said.
As well as the two years in jail the judge banned Casey from driving for 20 years.