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Monday 24 September 2018

'I expected to die' - garda who was dragged down street on car driven by crack cocaine addict

Christina Joyce was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail
Christina Joyce was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail

A garda has said he expected to die the day a woman, who was high on crack cocaine, accelerated away as he was attempting to seize her vehicle.

Garda Thomas Gallagher (39) read his victim impact statement during the sentence hearing of Christina Joyce (30), who was later jailed for four-and-a-half years.

The garda said he felt he had to hold on to the door of the Volvo car to stop himself being pulled under the vehicle.

He told Judge Martin Nolan: "There was nothing I could do. If I let go of the driver's door I would be dragged under the car. I had nowhere to go. I accepted at that stage I was dead. The speed we were going I thought there was no way I wouldn't be killed."

Gda Gallagher said he noticed that Joyce seemed to be driving her vehicle in the direction of a parked car across the road so he felt he had to let go of the door. He fell to the ground and skidded into the parked car.

"I consider myself extremely lucky that I am alive and able to walk," he added.

Gda Gallagher, who has been in An Garda Siochana for 14 years, was taken to hospital by ambulance. He had dislocated his knee and had to remain in a brace for eight weeks.

He also badly injured his shoulder and has been told he cannot return to playing sports for about two years. He has also not returned to work.

He said fitness was very important to him so it was a major life change for him. The father-of-two said his wife also had a chronic back condition and usually had to rely on him for much of the work around the house. He was not able to assist her while he was in the brace.

Joyce, a mother-of-three of no fixed abode, was sent from the District Court to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on signed pleas of guilty.

She admitted endangering Gda Gallagher and assaulting him causing him harm on April 9, 2018.

She also admitted two charges of trespass, damaging a wall and damaging a car. She has 67 previous convictions for assault, failure to appear, public order, drugs offences, theft and fraud, road traffic offences, assaulting a police officer and criminal damage.

Keith Spencer BL, defending, said his client was one of 14 siblings and was taken into care as a three-week-old baby. She had since been placed in 23 different foster families. She began self harming at nine and has been rescued by gardai from the River Liffey following suicide attempts. Joyce is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from both auditory and visual hallucinations, counsel said.

Escape

Sergeant Ronan Waldron told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that Joyce, who had a male passenger with her, continued to drive at speed after her encounter with Gda Gallagher and ultimately crashed into a Dublin City Council van.

Joyce and the man then broke into the home of a 77-year-old woman in a bid to escape gardai. Her accomplice kicked down the woman's back door so that they could continue fleeing from gardai. They broke into a second nearby apartment where they were arrested.

There was €1,622 worth of damage caused to the wall of a building Joyce had earlier crashed into, and €1,200 worth of damage caused to a parked car she and her accomplice had jumped on to scale a wall.

Sgt Waldron accepted a suggestion from Mr Spencer that there was marks on Joyce's arms consistent with self harming when she was first spotted in the vehicle that day.

Judge Nolan said Gda Gallagher had "no option but to grab the driver's door to stop being run over", saying Joyce was "intent on getting rid of him".

The judge said it was "a morning of mayhem" committed while Joyce was "under the influence of crack cocaine" and noted that Joyce had injured three people, caused criminal damage and entered two houses in an attempt to evade arrest.

He accepted that Joyce had a difficult upbringing with no parental supervision.

Judge Nolan imposed a four-and-a-half year sentence which he said must be consecutive to a term Joyce is already serving for assault and theft. She was on bail for these offences in April and was due for release next September.

He disqualified her from driving for six years and Judge Nolan refused an application by Mr Spencer to suspend part of the sentence as an incentive for Joyce.

"She will go to jail again if she commits crime again," he said.

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