Off the road thug reversed car towards garda at high speed
A disqualified driver who put a garda's life at risk by reversing his car towards her at speed has been sentenced to seven and half years for this and spate of robberies and attempted raids.
Joseph French (24) of Neilstown Park, Clondalkin, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to endangerment on the Ninth Lock Road, Clondalkin and dangerous driving on Cherry Orchard Avenue, Ballyfermot on April 30, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to driving a car without insurance on the same date.
French further pleaded guilty to two robberies and an attempted robbery on dates between July 30, 2014 and August 9, 2014 at Centra, La Touche Road, Bluebell, Centra in Foxbourough in Lucan and Mace on Manor Road, Palmerstown.
His previous convictions include robbery, attempted robbery, theft, burglary, having no insurance, possession of articles, dangerous driving, possession of knives, escape from lawful custody and drug offences.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced French to consecutive terms of seven and half years before he suspended the final two years on strict conditions.
He said the robberies were violent and committed to feed a drug habit. He added that Garda Fiona Ruddy may have been seriously injured when French drove at her. He disqualified him from driving for five years.
French was on bail for two robberies and an attempted robbery when Garda Ciaran O'Neill and Gda Ruddy spotted him driving his Volkswagen Passat in Ballyfermot. He hid his face when the officers approached the car to speak to him.
French took off at speed and refused to stop when the gardaí, who chased in their patrol car, directed him to. It was rush hour evening traffic and as French got up to 80 kmh in a 50 kmh zone, Gda O'Neill said he felt it was unsafe to continue the chase.
He told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting that he saw French overtake cars and two horses and traps in “extremely dangerous” manoeuvres, narrowly avoiding head-on collisions.
Gda O'Neill said French continued to drive at 100 kph, in a 50 kph zone, onto the Ninth Lock Road. He drove on the wrong side of the road around narrow bends, until he was eventually hemmed in by traffic.
It was at this point that both gardaí got out of the patrol car to approach French and he reversed at speed in the direction of Gda Ruddy.
Gda O'Neill said he had spotted the Passat's reverse lights come on but his colleague hadn't. He shouted at her to get back into the patrol car because he said he was worried she would be knocked over.
He told Ms Brennan that French was driving at such speed that if Gda Ruddy hadn't managed to get into the patrol car when she did, she would have been seriously injured or killed. She just managed to close the door of the car when the Passat drove past.
French got stuck behind a Dublin bus and other traffic a short time later and gardaí managed to move in and arrest him. He had no driving license and he wasn't insured.
Gda O'Neill agreed with Shane Costelloe SC, defending, that his client had not deliberately tried to harm Gda Ruddy, rather he was behaving recklessly in an attempt to evade arrest.
Garda Linda Ryan said that nothing was stolen during an attempted raid of Centra on La Touche Road after the manager of the store hit the culprit with a tray of dog food.
The robber, who was armed with a lump hammer hit the manager in the face, before he and French made good their escape in a stolen car. The victim's eye was red and swollen from the attack.
In the second robbery, in the same shop 10 days later, the raiders were again armed with a hammer which was used to threaten a member of staff. They managed to get away with €700 from the shop but the raid was captured on CCTV footage.
The same day French and his accomplices robbed a shop in Lucan and made off with €300. They again made good their escape in a stolen car.
Later that day they tried to rob Mace in Palmerstown but were stopped by shop keeper, Darren O'Brien, who threw a vegetable tray and cans of coke at the would-be raiders.
Gda Ryan said French was nominated as a suspect after viewing CCTV footage from the attempted raid in Palmerstown. He was arrested and during interview he told gardaí about the attempted robbery in July while making full admissions to the other raids.
He said he needed the money for drinking and drugs. He said at times he was the getaway driver, while on other occasions he was in the various shops with his accomplices.