A Drumkeen man who drove through a river, while disqualified from driving, to avoid Gardai was handed an 11-month prison sentence.
Charles McGee of Lettermore, Drumkeen, was before Letterkenny District Court charged with a range of offences between March and May 2015.
He had been serving a three-year driving ban at the time.
On March 3, 2015, Garda Cunningham, while off duty, observed McGee – whom he knew to have been disqualified – driving a silver Hilux at Trentabuoy, Drumkeen.
On April 2nd, 2015, while also off duty, Garda Cunningham, again while off duty, observed McGee driving a blue Hilux at Oldtown, Letterkenny.
On each occasion, Garda Cunningham made notes of the times and dates in his notebook.
On April 3, 2015, Garda Cunningham and Garda McDermott approached McGee’s house at Lettermore, Drumkeen. They were informed that McGee wasn’t present.
As they made their way back, they spotted McGee driving a Blue Hilux and activated the warning lights in the patrol vehicle.
The pursuit continued through Drumkeen village and at 100km/ph through narrow roads.
“He continued to use both sides of the road, entering blind bends,” Garda Cunningham told the court.
“There is very poor visibility on the road and he showed no regard for other road users at all. He continued at speed through Leglands before turning left off the road and through a river, continuing to the rear of his property.
“We were unable to follow him so we stood down. The river runs alongside his property. There is one access point to his property. We observed the keep in the distance, traveling to the rear of the property and observed him closing the gate.
“You could see the sheep running in every direction in the field, caused by the noise of the driving.”
At 6.15 that evening, Gardai called to McGee’s home and asked him to produce hid documents.
“You must have a set on me,” McGee told Gardaí.
“You’re badly mistaken. I can round up 16 witnesses to say I wasn’t driving”
On May 25, 2015, at Trentabuoy, Garda Cunningham and Garda McDermott spotted McGee, who was alone and wearing sunglasses, driving a blue Hilux and towing a trailer.
“He took off and failed to stop, but after 800m he braked suddenly, causing a cloud of smoke on the main road,” Garda Cunningham told the Court.
Gardai followed McGee to a property. A woman at the house said she was a first cousin of McGee, but she didn’t speak to him and wanted him removed. McGee locked himself in the bathroom for a time before agreeing to leave following a conversation with his brother.
McGee has eight previous convictions, including one for threatening to kill a member of An Garda Siochana – Garda Cunningham in 2014 – an offence for which he undertook 180 hours of community service in lieu of a six-month prison sentence.
Peter Nolan BL, acting for McGee, said his client was an unmarried man, a farmer with 56 acres, who has a seven-year-old daughter.
Mr Nolan said McGee had recently been diagnosed with a blood disease that ‘may or may not be serious’.
“The concern here is that this is a very serious matter and the situation has dawned on him,” Mr Nolan said.
“I read the riot act to him and he is now aware of what he is looking act.”
Mr Nolan said a friend would now drive his client when he requires transport.
Judge Alan Mitchell said McGee showed ‘an outrageous disregard for the rules of the road’
McGee was handed two three-month sentences and another five-month sentence, to run consecutively.
On the charge of dangerous driving, McGee was given a three-month sentence to run concurrent.
McGee also has a five-month suspended sentence that will be left hanging for 18 months, while he was banned from driving for a total of ten years.
“I have taken into account the mitigating family circumstances, otherwise it would have been more,” Judge Mitchell said.
“He needs to understand the complete disregard that he showed.
“Initially I was considering all consecutive sentences. This was a commendable example in how community policing works.”
An appeal was lodged in the case.