Two gardaí had to be taken to hospital after their patrol car overturned during a high speed chase across counties Longford and Westmeath, a sitting of Longford District Court heard this week.
The court heard how several units of the Gardaí had attempted to stop a VW Caddy van which had taken off at high speed after it had attempted to evade a checkpoint in Newtownforbes.
During the course of the chase its passenger, Michael Rehill, of Longstone, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, threw out a series of five gallon drums containing kerosene at gardaí who were following behind.
Sgt Declan McGlynn said both he and Garda Karl Foley had been conducting a checkpoint at 11:35pm on February 26, 2013 when they noticed a van carrying out a u-turn further up the road.
After a short chase that took in the Red Cow Roundabout along the main N4, he said the van came to a sudden stop.
Seconds later, Sgt McGlynn said its driver reversed into the patrol car and took off again at high speed.
He said the chase lasted for an hour, taking in several back roads with the driver at times also attempting to give gardaí the slip by turning the van’s headlights off.
Alongside the Longford patrol car, units from Granard and Westmeath were also called in.
Sgt McGlynn said shortly afterwards, gardaí were presented with an altogether different and potentially more dangerous problem.
“The passenger appeared to move into the rear of the van and on a number of occasions threw out five gallon drums in front of the garda patrol car,” he said.
The Longford based sergeant revealed he counted 11 drums that had been thrown out of the VW van at six different locations, four of which occurred at different locations in Rathowen and two further instances in Ballynacargy.
Defence solicitor Frank Gearty said while he was in no way defending the actions of his client, he did contend the drums were thrown out of the van’s passenger window and not from its rear.
Sgt McGlynn, meanwhile, also told of how one patrol car attached to Delvin and which had been in pursuit, went out of control and overturned.
Neither officer was seriously injured but nonetheless both had to be hospitalised after the incident.
The court was told the chase eventually came to an end at a farmyard in Jamestown shortly before 1am.
Sgt McGlynn said he arrested Mr Rehill after both of the van’s occupants attempted to flee the scene on foot.
“The other man (driver) has not yet been identified,” he added, despite a file having been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In mitigation, Mr Gearty said his client was extremely apologetic over what unfolded on the night.
“He (Mr Rehill) says it should never have happened. He says he met the man the night before in the pub and has never met him since,” said Mr Gearty.
Standing beside his solicitor throughout, Mr Rehill insisted he was unaware of what the unidentified driver of the van was planning.
The 26-year-old said he had been up visiting friends in Mullingar that night and was simply getting a lift.
“He had cheap diesel for sale and I knew a fella who was going to buy the diesel,” he said.
“I was getting a lift with him to Leitrim.”
Mr Rehill, however, denied he knew anything about the driver’s identity when put under strong questioning from Judge Seamus Hughes.
“I didn’t know who he is,” he said.
“His name was James he told me.”
Mr Gearty added his client had attended court with both his parents and since the incident over three years ago has managed to “transform his life” by moving to the UK, furthering his education and securing employment in construction.
Judge Hughes agreed as he referred to the length of time that had passed since the incident as well as Mr Rehill’s endeavours to stay out of trouble.
Describing Mr Rehill as a “fine looking man”, he issued €1,000 fines for five of the Section 14 charges while striking out a sixth charge which occurred at Kilmacahill, Rathowen.
The majority of those monies, he said would be transferred from bail money which had been handed into the court previously to meet each of the fines.
“It was an escapade that was extremely foolish and dangerous but it’s one that I don’t think will be repeated again,” Judge Hughes concluded.