‘Quiet youth’ goes nuts when he gets behind the wheel, court hears

September 22, 2020

A DONEGAL youth who was described as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character has appeared in court charged with a ‘catalogue’ of driving offences.

The youth, who cannot be named due to his age, was brought to Letterkenny District Court in handcuffs by Gardaí.

He is charged with what Judge Paul Kelly described as ‘a catalogue of offences’ on nine dates from June 13, 2019 to August 29, 2020.

On the most recent date, August 29, 2020, Gardai said they saw the youth pushing a racing quad at 3.45pm in the afternoon.

He told Gardaí that the quad had broken down and he was taken it to be repaired.  The court heard that he pushed the quad a distance of seven kilometres.

After it had been repaired, he drove it and, on the way back, came up behind a farm quad being driven by another minor. Garda witness said that the youth drove up tight to the rear of the other quad.

“There was little or no room between them,” the Garda said. “The farm quad was just a bigger version of the one he was driving.”

As they passed the church in Gortahork, he moved to overtake the other quad and colliding. The youth was, the Garda said, ‘sent flying through the air and came to rest in the middle of the N56’.

The youth, who lost a tooth in the incident, received medical attention and was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital, where he received treatment for a variety of cuts and bruises. The matter was not reported to Gardai at the time. The youth denied driving the quad before later making full admissions to Gardaí.

On January 6, 2020, at 1.50pm, Gardaí observed a vehicle traveling towards them straddling the white line. Three passengers were on board the vehicle, which was driven by the defendant. Gardaí followed the car, which went onto a side road before overtaking a tractor on a blind bend. He narrowly avoided a head-on collision with another car.

After the Gardaí activated the blue lights and sirens to indicate the vehicle to stop, it continued on before the vehicle stalled. The pursuit lasted eight kilometres before the car stalled.

The occupants alighted and fled on foot. The driver was apprehended and arrested.

On June 2, 2020, Gardaí on patrol in Creeslough signalled for a car to stop. Gardaí pulled alongside the vehicle and spoke to the driver. When another vehicle came behind, Gardaí indicated for the driver to pull over and wait. However, he took off at speed and fled. Gardaí pursued the vehicle to the Falcarragh area, where it was observed traveling down a narrow side road.

Gardaí continued their pursuit until the car met an oncoming vehicle and had to stop.

Garda witness said the driver ‘bailed out and abandoned the vehicle’. The youth denied driving the vehicle when Gardai visited his home. A demand was made for the production of documents, but these were not tendered to Gardaí.

The defendant was also charged with a range of incidents from 2019.

On June 13, 2019, at 9.12pm, he was observed driving a car, which was not taxed. The vehicle was seized. A demand was made to produce documents, but he did not do so.

On July 6, 2019, the youth drove past a cyclist on Tory Island and performed a handbrake turn. The cyclist gestured to the youth not to drive in such a manner. The youth became abusive and when the cyclist returned to his home, the youth arrived on a quad and verbally abused him.

The following day, on July 7, 2019, at 4pm, the man was again cycling when a car, being driven by the defendant, pulled alongside him in a dangerous manner. Again, he became abusive towards the cyclist.

On September 9, 2019, at 1.25pm, the accused drove outside Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. It was lunchtime and students were crossing between the school and the playing fields when the youth started to perform diffing manoeuvres. Initially, he denied driving the vehicle before making a full statement of admission.

On September 12, 2019, Gardaí were aware that the youth was in possession of a vehicle which was parked at his home with no registration plates. Gardaí later observed the vehicle fishtailing on the N56 road. The vehicle, which Gardai said was ‘dangerously defective’, was seized. A demand was made for documents, which were not produced.

On December 11, 2019, at 11.30am, an off duty Garda was on his way to Falcarragh Garda Station in his own car when, as he approached a junction, he observed a scrambler motorcycle being drive by the defendant. When he attempted to speak to the youth, he made off. Later, the Gardaí called to the family home. A demand was made for insurance, but the documents was not produced.

Solicitor Mr Patsy Gallagher said the youth’s father, who was present in court, had ‘stood by him in these difficult times’ and said the matters were ‘not acceptable in any matter of any community’.

Mr Gallagher said: “For his family’s sake, he should cop himself on and get away from these vehicles.

“We have before us here a young man who is an extremely hard worker but, with the power of the right foot, unfortunately he becomes a Jekyll to the Hyde character he is normally.

“He is a gentleman with a low voice, but when he gets behind a wheel he goes nuts.”

Mr Gallagher said his client was ‘remorseful, apologetic and there is now a realisation’.

Mr Gallagher said: “He has had time to reflect in a room where doors have been closed that he can’t open.

“He fully accepts he was playing chicken, he was acting the maggot on a very dangerous machine. This wasn’t a proper environment and he could have killed. He accepts that.”

Mr Gallagher asked the court to release the youth – who submitted a hand-written letter to the court – into the custody of his father for a short period.

“He understands the danger that he has put people in,” Mr Gallagher said. “This has to be drilled hard at this young age. He is coming into a period of his life for which statistics don’t need to be brought out.

“Give him some hope or light at the end of the tunnel. Put him on his merit and let’s see if he will abide by the conditions.

“Looking to the future, he may have been ‘got’ at the right time’. He realises that if he doesn’t amend the error of his ways, he has a lot of time in custody. He can be saved and will be saved. He has taken the first step by acknowledging the wrongdoing. He understands the realisation that he could have killed someone.”

Judge Paul Kelly, noting that he was obliged to seek a probation report, denied bail and remanded the youth in custody until October 19.

“He has a catalogue of offences,” Judge Kelly said. “A particularly aggravating factor is that bail was granted on a substantial number of cases in January. A condition of bail was that you not drive a vehicle. The Probation Service will be in touch and you must engage fully.”