Drunk man who reached for Garda’s gun was tasered

January 18, 2023

A man who attempted to take a gun from a Garda after crashing during a pursuit has avoided prison.

Craig Stewart crashed the Volkswagen Golf he was driving at Altaghderry, Carrigans on September 7, 2019 after leading Gardai on a chase from Burt.

Stewart appeared at Letterkenny District court where he faced a charge of assault causing harm, drink-driving and four counts of dangerous driving.

The car collided with a ditch and the occupants fled.

Garda Laurence Maguire gave chase and ordered Stewart to drop the implement he was holding.

Stewart took three steps towards Garda Maguire, who gave a second oral warning.

Garda Maguire twice attempted to taser Stewart, whose padded jacket meant it couldn’t make a proper connection.

An on-foot chase continued over a fence onto farmland. Stewart charged Garda Maguire with his shoulder, knocking him to the ground.

When the Garda got up, Stewart attempted to grab his stab vest and toss him to the ground.

Stewart tried to get hold of the Garda’s firearm, which was in a holder. Garda Maguire managed to restrain Stewart, who was subsequently arrested.

Stewart, a 23-year-old from Mangan Court in Derry was accompanied by his father in court, where the facts of the case were outlined by Sergeant Gerard Dalton.

Gardai received a report of a dark golf driving dangerously on the road from Burt to Newtowncunningham.

Officers from the armed support unit, including Garda Maguire, observed the car on the N13 and activated the blue lights.

The pursuit continued on back roads,through Newtowncunningham, Monreagh and Altaghderry.

Stewart was observed performing a number of dangerous driving manoeuvres.

The accused was taken to Letterkenny Garda Station after being arrested under the Road Traffic Act.

A test showed the presence of 45 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 22 microgrammes.

Mr Patsy Gallagher, solicitor for Stewart, said his client was a ‘very immature young man who took drugs and was in a certain way of life’ and he had received ‘very unfortunate’ news regarding a family member a short time before this incident.

Mr Gallagher highlighted the support from Stewart’s family, which he said the accused was ‘very lucky’ to have.

Mr Gallagher said his client was ‘deeply remorseful and fearful’.

He said: “His approach has always been that this shouldn’t have happened.”

Mr Gallagher asked the court to consider a favourable report, which placed Stewart at a low risk of reoffending.

He said: “The report shows a complete turnaround. He is back on the straight and narrow. He is working part time with his dad and he hopes to get back to college.”

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said the matter was ‘very serious’.

“There is a favourable report and but for that there would be a very different outcome,” Judge Cunningham said.

For assault causing harm to Garda Maguire, Stewart was sentenced to four months in prison with the entirety of the term suspended for 18 months.

For the drink-driving offence, Stewart was disqualified from driving for two years and fined €250.

The dangerous driving charges were taken into account by Judge Cunningham.

Judge Cunningham warned Stewart that she would activate the prison sentence if he appeared before her again.