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Dangerous driver tells court “I wasn't trying to hurt anyone. I was just trying to kill myself”

Central Criminal Courts
Central Criminal Courts

A Westmeath man whose dangerous driving left another driver with a permanent limp told gardaí he was on his way to kill himself, a court has heard

Brian Gavin (28) was driving from Mullingar to Lucan, Co Dublin at speeds of up to 160 km/hr, flashing cars in the fast lane before overtaking them on the grassy verge.

He continued to drive at full speed after clipping the wing mirror of one car while overtaking it in this way on the N4 around Leixlip, Co Kildare.

About 20km further along the road, at 6.15pm of January 17 last (2015), his VW Caddy van drove into the back of a Skoda car.

The driver, Gerard Nolan, remembered nothing between driving his car and waking up in hospital.

Mr Nolan's hip was broken. His leg was broken in three places and he had permanent fixtures surgically put in place to fix this. His front teeth were broken and he received 23 stitches to his face resulting in permanent visible scarring.

Minutes after this collision Gavin drove into the back of another car, forcing it off the road, before he stopped the van.

When gardai arrived he told them: “I wasn't trying to hurt anyone. I was just trying to kill myself”. Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Gavin has bipolar disorder and had stopped taking his medication.

He later told gardai that he had suicidal feelings when he set out from his family home. He said he didn't intend to act on these feelings but wanted to get to Rosslare and take a ferry to England.

Gavin of Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Mr Nolan at the N4, Lucan on January 17 last and to failing to stop at an accident. He also admitted a second offence of dangerous driving.

The court heard he complied with a roadside breath test and was found to be clear of any alcohol or other intoxicants.

Judge Sarah Berkeley adjourned the case until next May in order to monitor Gavin's compliance with his medication regime. She said it was a very difficult case and noted his family were in court and would keep an eye on it.

Garda Keith Lambe told Seamus Clarke BL, prosecuting, that Gavin had argued with his brother the previous day over a leaking pipe in the family home. The next day Gavin was still upset about this row and decided he needed to get away from the family home.

He packed his van with a view to driving to Rosslare harbour. He told gardai: “I wanted to get away, I had to get away as fast as possible. It was get away and stay alive or stay and die.”

He said he drove at speed, at up to 160 km/hr, along the N4 and M4 roads. He said he was very sorry for any injury he caused.

The court heard Gavin was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013. He later took himself off his prescribed medication and an attempt to drown himself around this time was thwarted by the quick intervention of a passerby.

David Staunton BL, defending, said his client's health went into a spiral, and he began experiencing sleeplessness and developed shingles.

Counsel said Gavin came from a very respectable farming family who were supporting him and who had not known that he had stopped taking his medication. He said both Gavin and his family had expressed sincere remorse and insight into the effects of his actions on Mr Nolan.

In a victim impact report Mr Nolan said that after the crash he required care at his home and his siblings had to bath him, causing him to feel a loss of independence.

The unmarried 57-year-old said he also felt very self conscious about his limp and about scarring to his face. Both had caused him to feel less sociable and to become isolated from friends and family.

The total financial loss to him was €15,990, which includes €3,000 on dental reconstructive surgery.

Judge Berkeley imposed the mandatory driving ban of four years on Gavin.