Fleeing driver was ‘20 yards from freedom’

Buncrana courthouse.
Buncrana courthouse.

Buncrana District Court

Thomas Doherty, Culmore, appeared at Buncrana District Court and pleaded guilty to the charges of dangerous driving, no insurance and failing to stop.

Garda Robyn Hennigan told the court that at 2.22am on July 30th, 2013, he was conducting a checkpoint at Elaghbeg, between Bridgend and Burnfoot, when a vehicle pulled out of the Muff road in the direction of Bridgend.

The Garda activated the blue lights on the patrol car and Doherty (21) failed to stop, travelling at speeds of up to 125kph through Bridgend.

The court was told that just past the Texaco filling station, near the Derry border, Doherty’s car lost power .

Doherty pulled over to the left hand side of the road and stopped. He was then arrested.

Gda Hennigan told the court the vehicle had broken down and this was why Doherty could not cross the border into Derry.

Defence solicitor Ciaran MacLochlainn said his client was co-operative with Gardai and had been “20 or 30 feet from freedom.”

He said Doherty “panicked” as he had no tax on the vehicle, a Mercedes, and also was not insured due to a “technicality.” He told that as the vehicle was more “high powered,” Doherty was not covered to drive it.

Mr MacLochlainn added the pursuit took place over a distance of less than a kilometre and in the early hours of the morning, in what was a “well lit up” area.

He told the court that as a result of Doherty’s arrest, he had fallen out with his father, who owned the vehicle . He later worked in Dublin, in an Axa Insurance repair centre. The court heard Doherty is now reunited with his father and works with him in Muff, valeting cars.

Mr MacLochlainn said his client was anxious to keep his licence as he needs it for work.

Judge Paul Kelly directed Doherty to complete a pro-social driving course and adjourned the case until December to enable him to do so.

He also directed Doherty to pay 200 euro towards the cost of the course.

Judge Kelly said if Doherty was successful in completing the course and paid a 500 euro fine he would consider the application to let him keep his licence.

He added it was an “expensive lesson to learn” that driving away from Gardai “in that manner” was “ not tolerated.”