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Drunk driver in stolen van 'deliberately' drove at garda on motorbike after hour-long chase

The garda's bike after the 2014 incident
The garda's bike after the 2014 incident

A drunk driver, who was pursued “from one end of Cork to another” in a stolen van before “deliberately” driving at a stationary garda motorcyclist, has moved to appeal his 12 year sentence.

John Paul O'Driscoll (29), a native of Fairhill but with an address at the Simon Community, had pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to 17 charges including burglary, unlawful taking of a van, reckless endangerment and criminal damage at various locations around Cork in April 2013.

O'Driscoll, who has 168 previous convictions, was disqualified from driving at the time and on “two different sets of bail”.

During the pursuit, which lasted almost an hour, O'Driscoll rammed a number of vehicles, some with people inside, drove the wrong way down a one way street as well as a dual carriageway before hitting Garda Michael Twomey throwing him from his motorbike for “a considerable distance”.

He was given consecutive sentences totalling 12 years imprisonment but when Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin indicated that he would suspend the final two years, O'Driscoll shouted from the dock that he could “f*** off”.

Opening an appeal against sentence today, O'Driscoll's barrister, Elizabeth O'Connell SC, submitted that the Circuit Court judge erred in imposing consecutive sentences and that not enough credit was given for the guilty plea.

Ms O'Connell said there was no evidence to suggest O'Driscoll's remorse was “trite”. At the scene, even when still intoxicated, O'Driscoll said he was “sorry for the garda”.

He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, didn't ask for a probation report and didn't apply for bail, Ms O'Connell said.

She said O'Driscoll received a “hefty sentence” for criminal damage and was “punished again” by the imposition of consecutive sentences.

The net result of this “double counting”, Ms O'Connell said, was that the sentence he received was substantially in excess of sentences where people lost their lives.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Monica Lawlor BL, said the pursuit lasted “short of one hour” from around 9 am. There would have been kids going to school had it not been Good Friday morning.

O'Driscoll was disqualified from driving at the time and was on “two different sets of bail”. He rammed a number of cars both stationary and with people inside them and drove the wrong way down a one-way street as well as a dual carriageway.

Ms Lawlor said O'Driscoll “posed a very real risk to a large number of law abiding citizens going about their business” and his action in colliding with Gda Twomey was “intentional rather than reckless”.

She said Gda Twomey was a solitary man on a motorbike in the middle of a motorway but O'Driscoll hit him head on. Being aware of the pursuit and having stopped traffic,

Gda Twomey said he had left ample room on the road and that O'Driscoll “couldn't but have seen me”.

Ms Lawlor said an advanced garda driver pursuing the stolen van recalled O'Driscoll “instinctively” hitting the brakes as he turned the corner and saw Gda Twomey but then the brake lights came off and Gda Twomey was hit head on.

Ms Lawlor said there was no evidence “at all” that O'Driscoll was undergoing alcohol treatment or taking steps to rehabilitate himself.

In this regard, Ms O'Connell said O'Driscoll was “doing very badly” in custody. He had recently been moved from Cork prison to Mountjoy where he is in “solitary 24 hour lock-up”.

Reserving judgment, Mr Jutice Garrett Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court hoped to deliver its decision within one month.