herald

Monday 21 August 2017

Garda who jumped to safety as thug drove at him suffers from 'flashbacks and chills'

Balbriggan Garda Station
Balbriggan Garda Station

A thug drove a van straight at a garda, narrowly avoiding hitting him as he jumped out of the way in a "life-threatening" incident, a court heard.

Cornelius Price (35) nearly struck the officer as he chased a man in a car "aggressively and dangerously" outside a garda station.

A court heard the garda was terrified, later considered resigning from the force and still got "flashbacks and chills" whenever he passed the scene.

Price, with an address at Rockleigh House, Richardstown, Gormanston, Co Meath, had denied reckless endangerment at Balbriggan Garda Station on January 22, 2014.

He was found guilty at trial by a jury and was due to be sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today. However, Judge Patricia Ryan adjourned sentencing for further legal submissions later this week.

Led through his evidence by Diarmuid Collins BL, for the prosecution, Sgt Mark Buckley said Garda Gary Dillane and Garda Sean Caffrey were on duty at the station at 9.35pm.

They observed and heard two vehicles racing down the Harry Reynolds Road - a grey Hyundai Accent followed by a grey Ford Transit van.

The van appeared to be chasing the car and was swerving back and forth to the wrong side of the road. Sgt Buckley agreed that the transit van had appeared to be driving in an "aggressive and dangerous" manner. Price was driving.

Fearful

The Hyundai pulled in to the gates of the garda station and the driver had a "fearful expression" and was repeatedly beeping the horn.

The transit van followed the car into the garda station car park, where it "looped around".

Garda Dillane was standing outside the station and decided to stop the van.

He was in full garda uniform and placed his right hand up in the air to halt it.

He shouted "stop" but it failed to do so and continued to drive straight at him at speed. The vehicle lights and car park lights were on and Garda Dillane continued to hold his hand in the air.

The court heard that when Garda Dillane became aware the van was not going to stop, he jumped out of the way.

The garda felt a pain in his leg when he landed and the van narrowly missed striking him. He believed he would have been seriously injured if he had not jumped out of the way.

The van exited the car park and turned left back onto the Harry Reynolds Road, where it drove off at high speed.

Speed

Price was later arrested and questioned. He denied that he drove the van in the fashion stated and said he had not seen any garda with his hand up.

He told gardai if he had, he would have stopped. He pleaded not guilty and was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to 2.

Price had 18 previous convictions for careless driving, breach of the peace, driving without a licence, illegal hunting, handling stolen property, assault causing harm and other offences.

In a victim impact statement, Garda Dillane said he had taken such statements before but never thought he would one day have to give one.

"I still get flashbacks of that moment when I saw the two vehicles driving at speed and dangerously down the Harry Reynolds Road."

He said he injured his left leg and suffered a sharp pain, and it was only after the adrenaline had worn off that he realised that he could have been killed.

The following day he spoke to his parents. His father said he knew he loved being a garda but asked if it was worth it if he was "lying in a coffin".

He considered resigning but decided to stay in his job.

The court heard the accused had spent 11 and a half months in custody on a separate charge of threatening to cause damage to property while he was on bail for the endangerment charge.He was acquitted on the damage threat charge.

Judge Ryan adjourned the case until Friday.

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