A young man who side-rammed a Garda patrol car at 100kph causing €4,500 of damage has been saved from going to jail by the Garda he tried to drive off the road.
Dominic Keys undertook a series of dangerous driving manoeuvres after he fled a Garda checkpoint in Co Donegal.
Keys, from Whitehall, St Johnston, drove at high speed through a number of townlands and villages pulling hand-brake turns.
The then 19-year-old was stopped at a routine Garda checkpoint at Ballyboe, Manorcunningham by Garda Barry Gallagher and Marcus O’Dowd at around 2am on October 7th, 2017.
The conditions were wet and as Keys driving a red Audi A4 approached the checkpoint he suddenly put the car into reverse and sped off forcing Gardai to launch a pursuit.
Gardai pursued Keys across several townlands as he performed a number of danger manoeuvres and drove on the wrong side of the road and at high speed.
At one stage Gardai managed to pull up alongside the red Audi being driven by Keys but he turned the steering wheel into them and caused a side impact ramming.
Keys managed to drive off but Gardai recognised the driver and called to his father’s home where they told his shocked father Martin about what had happened.
Dominic Keys called to see Gardai and admitted the offences very early on and apologised to Gardai for his behaviour.
He took to the witness box and told the court he did not know what came over him on the night of the incident.
He said “I’m disgusted with myself and that I put other people at risk – the Gardai and the other people in the car, It was pure stupidity. It was completely out of line, I’m 22 now.
“I have never driven since. It was nobody else’s fault but my own. My dad has always given me support and I’d be lost without him.”
Letterkenny Circuit Court heard Keys had pleaded guilty to three charges, two of dangerous driving and another of endangerment.
Garda Barry Gallagher spoke up on behalf of the accused and said he knew him socially from playing football and that this event was completely out of character for Keys.
He agreed with barrister Fiona Crawford that the accused was from a very good family background.
Garda Galagher said “I got the impression he made a very bad decision and that’s what happened. He’s from a good decent family, he’s a good guy. I briefly know him through football and he is a decent fella. I would know him socially and this is out of character.”
Barrister Ms Crawford added that her client was very sorrowful for what had happened and that he hasn’t been behind the wheel since the incident more than a year and a half ago.
Passing sentence Judge John Aylmer described Keys’ driving as “appalling” and placed it in the mid-range of such offences.
However, he said Keys dealt with the incident in the appropriate manner from the outset with a plea and noted that he had no previous convictions.
He said the endangerment charge warranted a sentence of two and a half years in prison and the dangerous driving charges merited sentences of six months.
However, because of the mitigating circumstances, he would reduce these to 18 months and four months each.
Taking into account all the factors in the case he said he was prepared to impose a 240 hours community service sentence on Keys in lieu of the 18 months in prison and took the other two charges into consideration.
He told the accused that he had Garda Gallagher to thank in many ways that he was not facing a custodial sentence saying he was “extremely fair if not sympathetic and charitable” towards him.