Man ploughed stolen car through fence during high-speed garda chase

Man ploughed stolen car through fence during high-speed garda chase

A man who drove a stolen Mercedes through a fence during a high-speed garda chase before wading through a river to avoid capture has been jailed for three years.

John Byrne (28) of Stonebridge Avenue, Hartstown, Dublin pleaded guilty to using a car without the owner's consent and recklessly damaging it at the M3 motorway in Damastown on February 3, 2015.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today that a white Mercedes, with a value of over €50,000, was stolen from its owner in Charlemont estate off Griffith Avenue, Dublin at around 4.30am on the morning of February 3.

A short time later, the car was spotted by gardai travelling along the M3 motorway near the Navan Road and a pursuit was initiated.

Under questioning from Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, Detective Garda Cliff Singleton told the court the car hit a roundabout at high speed and nearly flipped over before speeding along the motorway at 210 km/hr. It then hit another roundabout, crashed through a stop sign and a fence, before coming to a halt in wasteland.

Byrne then got out of the car and ran away from pursuing gardai, wading through a river before eventually being captured. The car was badly damaged and had to be written off, the court heard.

Gda Singleton said Byrne told gardai he picked up the car from a man he owed drugs money to and was told to drive it to Dunboyne. "We couldn't come to the conclusion as to whether he was part of the burglary," Gda Singleton said.

The court heard Byrne has six previous convictions, including for drug misuse and damaging property.

Lisa Daly BL, defending, said Byrne "panicked" when he saw gardai pursuing him. "He hugely regrets this," she said. "He was very lucky that serious injury didn't befall any member of the public or gardai."

Ms Daly said Byrne had since become homeless and he, his partner and two young children were currently accessing emergency accommodation. She said he had a drugs problem but had been clean for six months.

Judge Patrick McCartan said Byrne's actions were an "appalling series of events" and "extraordinarily reckless".

"He made a wrong choice and pursued it with a vengeance and determination," Judge McCartan said, noting the car had been written off after the incident. "Thankfully no-one was killed, including the accused himself."

The judge also said he found it difficult to accept Byrne's version of events in relation to how he came to be driving the car, noting that he was dressed in all black on the night. "He was up to something else," he said.

He sentenced Byrne to three years' imprisonment for both counts and ordered that they run concurrently.

Isabel Hayes