A man who stole a car, drove it the wrong way down Buncrana’s one-way main street and crashed into a pole while drunk has been sentenced to nine months imprisonment and disqualified from driving for six years.
John Sweeney, (21) with an address at 86, Ashfield, Letterkenny appeared at Buncrana District Court at which he pleaded guilty to the theft of a car key, which was the property of Martin Devlin and unlawfully taking possession of that vehicle, both at Taobh An Struathan, Buncrana on 19th November 2015. He was also charged with driving with no insurance, no driving licence and drink driving at Cockhill Road, Buncrana on the same date.
The court heard that the offences were committed while Sweeney was on bail. He appeared at Buncrana Court from custody.
The court was also told that Sweeney’s alcohol reading on the night was 313 mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine., The drink driving limit for a specified driver, which Sweeney was, is 27mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine.
Garda Michael Hooks said Gardai attended the scene after receiving a report of a road traffic collision outside Supervalu Supermarket. There was no-one in the car but a member of the public told Gardai the driver had run into a car park. When they found Sweeney, a father-of-one, he admitted driving and was arrested. He told Gardai he was glad he was arrested and “wanted to get everything over and done with.” Under interview, Sweeney also admitted the theft of the car.
The court heard Sweeney “wasn’t familiar” with Buncrana and drove the car the wrong way down the main street and around the roundabout at the West End. There wasn’t any speed involved as the car had gone into ‘limp’ mode due to fault present before it was stolen. It could therefore not travel at anymore than 50kph.
Sweeney has a number of previous convictions and in February, was imprisoned and received a five-year driving disqualification for a number of motoring offences. His other previous convictions include dangerous driving, drink driving, public order, assault, theft and burglary. He was due for release from prison in December.
Defence solicitor Patsy Gallagher said his client wished to put the matter behind him and make a fresh start.
He added that Sweeney’s upbringing “left a lot to be desired” and he took his first drink at around 12-years-old. He has no formal education but is a “very bright young man.” Mr Gallagher said that Sweeney is undertaking three FETAC courses in prison and availing of all services regarding addiction. He added that Sweeney did not realise he was in Buncrana on the night of the offences and had been drinking for three days. He had previously been at a party in Letterkenny before attending one in Buncrana, which was also in Taobh An Struathan.
Judge Paul Kelly said he could not overlook the fact Mr Devlin had been at a “significant loss” after the theft of his car. He sentenced him to six months imprisonment for theft, consecutive to his current sentence; three months imprisonment for taking the vehicle, also consecutive, as well as three months imprisonment, to run concurrently and a six year disqualification for drink driving; the same sentence for no insurance and six months imprisonment, backdated to when Sweeney came into custody, for driving without a licence.