Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson
A dangerous driver who claimed his nephew was in the car threatening him with a taser during a high-speed garda chase has been given a suspended sentence after spending time in custody.
Lawyers for Dubliner James Maughan (36) told Judge Pauline Codd that the 20-year-old nephew was in the back of the car and was forcing the defendant to keep driving.
Anne Fitzgibbon BL, defending, said her client was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was easily led.
The court heard gardaí abandoned the high-speed chase as it was so dangerous.
On Monday, Judge Codd said Maughan had driven in a highly reckless manner but said the court had to look at the particular offender, noting the contents of a psychological report and his limited intellectual functioning.
She said gardaí were not in a position to say if a taser was present or not and none was recovered, but she said it seemed from the evidence it was possible and that he was under the influence of the person in the car.
She noted his background and vulnerabilities, including his schizophrenia, and that he had the support of his family. She noted the probation service had provided a high level of support for him and outlined a plan in terms of supervision.
She imposed a four-year sentence suspended in full for four years from Monday, noting that he had already served time in custody on this matter.
He is to undergo two years probation supervision as a condition of the suspension. She banned him from driving for life.
“If you go behind the wheel of a car again you will be serving the four years,” she told Maughan.
'Serious risk to the public'
At an earlier hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court she had noted that some of Maughan's dangerous driving and endangerment charges go back a decade.
In 2018, he received a 20-year driving ban from a court in Co Cavan for driving with no insurance and in 2011 he received a 10-year ban for endangerment.
Garda Gary Farrell told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, said that Maughan was driving a car which drove straight at a garda who had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.
The incident took place in the car park of Blanchardstown Shopping Centre in west Dublin during the day on February 27th, 2020.
Garda Farrell said there was a passenger in the car and Maughan later testified that this was his younger nephew.
He told Judge Codd his nephew had a taser and pointed it at him and told him “if I don't drive the car he'd shock me”.
Garda Farrell said that Maughan drove off at high speed into a roundabout, forcing other traffic to break hard to avoid collisions.
Maughan continued on driving at speed on the wrong side of a road and into oncoming traffic, driving through red stop lights on an extremely busy junction.
He drove towards Mulhuddart, driving at speed up the main street there before gardaí decided to stop the pursuit because it had become too dangerous and posed a serious risk to the public, Garda Farrell said.
He said gardaí knew at the time that Maughan was uninsured and had no licence and later met him in custody in relation to the high speed chase.
Maughan of Stockhole Lane, Cloghran, Dublin subsequently pleaded guilty to endangerment, dangerous driving and driving without insurance at locations around Blanchardstown and Mulhuddart on February 27th, 2020.
The court heard his 174 previous convictions include 10 for dangerous driving, 23 for driving with no insurance and 21 for driving without a licence and four for car theft. He has 57 other convictions for other road traffic act offending.
Ms Fitzgibbon said that her client's nephew was the ringleader in this case and in many other cases of the road traffic offending. She said the 20-year-old is a repeat offender who has convictions going back to when he was still a juvenile.