23 May 2022

Man found with 22 empty beer cans in car following high speed Longford garda chase remanded in custody

Man found with 22 empty beer cans in car following high speed Longford garda chase remanded in custody

Circuit Court Judge Keenan Johnson

A father of two who was found with 22 empty beer cans in a car and almost five times over the legal limit after crashing into a wall in the midst of a high speed garda chase has been remanded in custody.

Thirty-six-year-old William Lawrence, with an address at Cloncovid, Kilcogy, Cavan appeared at a sitting of Longford Circuit Criminal Court today following an incident on March 22, 2021.

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The court heard how gardai John Hanley and Ronan Duffy came across the accused reversing out at speed onto a road from a local housing estate.

Sgt Jarlath Nohilly, giving evidence, said Garda Hanley activated the patrol car's flashing blue lights in an attempt to intercept the vehicle as it sped off down St Mel's Road and towards a busy junction along the Ballinalee Road.

When the vehicle reached the the end of the road, the car in question continued to drive at excessive speed, failing to stop on multiple occasions despite repeated attempts by both garda officers.

Sgt Nohilly said the car then appeared to held up in traffic at a turn off into the Oakvale and Ardnacassa areas of town, both of which are densely populated residential areas.

He said at that stage Garda Duffy exited the patrol car and signalled to the driver to stop while Garda Hanley attempted to reach across the window and pull the keys from its ignition.

Sgt Nohilly said the accused at that point suddenly drove up onto a kerb forcing Garda Duffy to jump out of the way.

Garda Hanley's hand, he added, became caught in the driver's side door window, almost dragging him along the road as the accused attempted his getaway.

The car, a grey Peugeot car, continued to drive at high speed, mounting a number of kerbs on the wrong side of the road as it continued along the Ardeevan area.

CCTV footage was also played to the court, showing the car coming into contact with the pursuing garda patrol car before crashing at high speed into a wall and just yards from a local creche.

Sgt Nohilly said it was his belief the driver did not see the wall moments before impact as a subsequent forensic collision investigation report found no skid marks at the scene.

He said after arriving at the scene, he counted 22 empty cans of Carlsberg found strewn across the inside of the vehicle.
The incident, the court was told, lasted a total of 13 minutes.

Mr Lawrence was taken by ambulance to Tullamore's Midland Regional Hospital where a blood alcohol specimen was taken two and a half hours later which returned a reading of 235mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

He was later charged with two counts of endangerment, dangerous driving, no insurance and of committing a petrol drive off from earlier in the day.

Mr Lawrence told gardai in interview said he could not remember the incident or being pursued by gardai due to his level of intoxication, adding he had been drinking for two days beforehand.

In the witness box, Mr Lawrence expressed his remorse over what occurred, revealing how he had been suffering from depression  and substance addiction at the time.

"To the garda that got injured, I apologise," he said.

"That day I was not in my right frame of mind and I was suffering from depression as I was drinking a lot.

"It should not have happened and I will never make that mistake again."

In a victim impact statement, Garda Hanley told of how he feared for his life as the incident unfolded, revealing that he still has not returned to work since.

"I felt I was going to be killed and I still see it to this day," he said, adding had it not been for his decision to take evasive action his injuries would have been potentially life threatening.

Judge Keenan Johnson described the episode as a "suicidal mission" and arguably the worst dangerous driving case he has ever encountered in his ten years serving on the bench.

He also described Mr Lawrence's blood alcohol reading as "bordering on alcohol poisoning".

In remanding Mr Lawrence into custody for the preparation of a probation and welfare report, Judge Johnson indicated the accused was facing a 20 year driving disqualification.

He remanded him in custody until May 17 2022.

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