Garda feared colleague would be ‘crushed’ after high-speed chase

June 22, 2018

Gardaí feared for their safety after being led on a high-speed chase along side roads outside Letterkenny.

James Clarke (55) of Magherahane, Raphoe, was not present in Letterkenny District Court to answer charges arising out of the incident on Monday, July 24, 2017.

A report of a black Opel Corsa driving erratically on the N14 from Lifford to Letterkenny was made to Letterkenny Garda Station. Garda Glennon and Garda Murphy responded to the call.

Garda Glennon said he came across the vehicle at 2.10am and noted how it was ‘veering from side to side’.

“I pulled the patrol car left onto the hard shoulder in case the vehicle collided with the patrol car,” he said.

“I did a u-turn and came behind it at Raymochy. It was veering over and back, across the hard shoulder and a short distance across the white line.”

Garda Glennon activated the blue lights and siren, but the car failed to stop and took a left turn at Pluck. During the pursuit, the Gardaí alerted the control room and Sergeant Barrett proceeded towards their location in the patrol van.

“As we approached the Trimragh junction, Sergeant Barrett had the van pulled across the junction with the blue lights activated, but a very short distance prior to it, at the last second, he (Clarke) veered left and continued in the direction of Dromore,” Garda Glennon said.

“He continued to drive erratically on a very minor road with sharp turns and blind corners.

“There are a number of speed bumps and he continued to drive at 60-70km/ph. He almost lost control and collided with a ditch at one point.”

At the junction at Drummany, at the bottom of Lurgybrack, Sergeant Barrett had the road blocked off with the van, but Clarke ‘swerved onto the grass verge’ to get around the van.

The pursuit continued on the N13 towards Ballybofey before Gardaí booked the Corsa in at Listillion.

Clarke accelerated in an attempt to get through the gap between the van and car, colliding with the Garda car in the process.

“I could feel the force the engine was revving at as he was stuck against the wing,” Garda Glennon said.

“He was revving as high as he could go. Garda Murphy exited the patrol car. I shouted to Garda Murphy to get back. I was concerned he’d get crushed between the two cars. Garda Murphy managed to open the door and pull out the car key.”

Gardaí detected a strong smell of intoxicating liquor from Clarke, who was handcuffed and arrested.

Clarke informed Gardaí that he could not provide a breath sample due to a breathing difficulty. A doctor, Aikaterini Laguoumit, arrived from NowDoc and Clarke questioned the doctor’s qualification.

Garda O’Hanlon said Clarke became ‘very red faced and abusive’ while in custody.

Damage totalling €1,922 was found on the patrol car, though some of that was damage to the rear of the vehicle from an unrelated incident.

Judge Paul Kelly convicted Clarke in his absence and issued a bench warrant for sentencing.



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