fast and furious | 

Up to eight drivers a day fleeing from garda checkpoints at high speeds

Recent charging of garda over chase in which three burglars were killed has heightened fears

Hundreds of motorists are fleeing from garda checkpoints each month

Figures reveal there were 1,079 incidents of drivers refusing to stop for gardaí between January 1 and May 15.  Stock photo

Ken Foy

Hundreds of drivers are attempting to evade gardaí each month as organised crime gangs exploit garda concerns over high-speed pursuits, the Sunday World can reveal.

New figures show that an average of eight drivers are refusing to stop for gardaí every day, with violence used by many of the offenders attempting to evade gardaí, including the ramming of patrol cars.

The number of incidents is not exclusively related to criminality. Motorists who fear they are over the drink-drive limit, unaccompanied learner drivers and motorists driving without insurance or tax are also fleeing. Some people even just panic when they see a Garda checkpoint.

Organised crime gangs were involved in many of the incidents however, with gardaí saying Irish roads are becoming increasingly lawless.

Figures reveal there were 1,079 incidents of drivers refusing to stop for gardaí between January 1 and May 15. Gardaí now fear officers or members of the public will be killed as gangs exploit Garda rules on engaging in chases, leaving officers powerless to stop them.

On Wednesday, in yet another incident of criminals failing to stop for gardaí, officers attempted to stop a grey coloured 09 reg Opel Insignia car suspected of containing members of a well-known burglary gang from the Tallaght area.

In an attempt to evade gardaí, the car was driven at speed the wrong way southbound on the northbound carriageway of the M50 between Finglas and Ballymun before it made its escape.

Meanwhile, a garda is currently facing charges over a car pursuit in which a notorious gang of burglars driving on the wrong side of the road were killed.

“The figures for this type of offence have never been as bad and it’s a problem everywhere,” said a source.

“There is no doubt that the criminals have latched onto garda concerns about being involved in pursuits.

“The pursuit policy in the organisation is deeply flawed and when chases happen, more than nine times out of 10, gardaí are being told to stand down and back off by their control centre, often leaving the criminals to get away.

“What kind of message is this sending out? What it is saying, for sure, is that the more reckless and dangerous the driver is, the more likely he is to be able to escape.

“There are farcical levels of training for gardaí in terms of being involved in pursuits.

“The criminals are emboldened, and this situation is going to get much worse,” the source said.

In one ramming incident in January, a patrol car was targeted in Tinahely, Co Wicklow.

A patrol car was also rammed in Limerick in February, while in another incident in the same month, there was an attempted ramming in Tralee, Co Kerry.

Also in February, a garda narrowly avoided injury in Ballyfermot in west Dublin – when a suspect on a scrambler motorbike drove at him at high speed, while in March, a driver in Carlingford, Co Louth, drove at gardaí, narrowly avoiding a crash a number of times before driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Last month in Dundalk, Co Louth, a garda patrol car was rammed and the driver then failed to stop before they fled across the Border to Northern Ireland.

These figures do not include a car chase in the Tallaght area of south west Dublin last Tuesday night, connected with an escalating drugs-related criminal feud in the suburb, which has resulted in two recent shootings.

Our figures also don’t include three incidents which occurred in the space of 24 hours last Friday, in which joyriders drove against traffic in west Dublin and Co Kildare – in the belief that gardaí would not risk prosecution by continuing the pursuit.

Dean Maguire (29), Karl Freeman (26) and Graham Taylor (31) were killed when their BMW vehicle burst into flames following a head-on crash with a truck while driving on the wrong side of the carriageway on July 7, 2021.

They were members of a Tallaght-based criminal gang that specialised in burglaries,

Dean Maguire, Karl Freeman and Graham Taylor died in the crash

The DPP has now directed that a garda involved in the pursuit face a criminal prosecution over his driving in relation to the incident.

“Pretty much everyone in the entire force is shocked by that decision but it is the officers who are having to deal with criminals driving away from them that have the most concerns obviously,” a source said.

Gardaí have identified a number of young criminals who are stealing cars and then posting images of the stolen cars and their dangerous driving stunts on TikTok.

A particular line of inquiry focuses on four male teenagers, aged between 14 and 16, with addresses in west Dublin and the capital’s northside.

“These are very prolific both in Dublin and across Leinster for stealing cars and then driving the vehicles in a very dangerous manner, filming themselves and putting it on the internet. Gardaí have discovered a TikTok page linked to one of them, a 16-year-old from the Dublin 5 area, which shows a lot of criminal activity,” another source said.

The issue of criminals failing to stop for gardaí is also especially acute in border counties, particularly Louth and Monaghan where roads are being used by organised west Dublin burglary gangs to enter and exit Northern Ireland.

Sources say these gangs often get involved in pursuits with the PSNI after committing crimes in the North and then crossing the Border, which regularly results in them being able to escape because of the garda “stand-down” policy on chases.

Justice Minister Simon Harris brought a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday to increase the maximum sentence for assaulting a garda, which includes ramming offences, from seven years to 12.

Garda members in Dublin Metropolitan Region West have voiced their concerns to the Garda Representative Association local rep, Mark Ferris who has said that these type of copycat incidents are happening more often, threatening the safety of both gardaí and fellow road users.

“Currently there is a protocol which effectively means a “no-pursuit policy” so gardai can feel helpless when criminals purposely and recklessly drive into oncoming traffic and I believe it is only a matter of time before innocent members of the public suffer serious injury or even worse.

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