Man reversed car and drove at speed towards the garda
By Sonya McClean
A disqualified driver who put a garda’s life at risk by reversing his car towards her at speed has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years for this and a spate of robberies and attempted raids.
Joseph French (24), of Neilstown Park, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to endangerment on the Ninth Lock Road, Clondalkin, and dangerous driving on Cherry Orchard Avenue, Ballyfermot on April 30, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to driving a car without insurance on the same date.
French further pleaded guilty to two robberies and an attempted robbery on dates between July 30, 2014 and August 9, 2014 at Centra, La Touche Road, Bluebell, Centra in Foxborough in Lucan and Mace on Manor Road, Palmerstown.
His previous convictions include robbery, attempted robbery, theft, burglary, having no insurance, possession of articles, dangerous driving, possession of knives, escape from lawful custody and drug offences.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced French to consecutive terms of seven-and-a-half years before he suspended the final two years on strict conditions.
He said the robberies were violent and committed to feed a drug habit. He added that Garda Fiona Ruddy may have been seriously injured when French drove at her. He disqualified him from driving for five years.
French was on bail for two robberies and an attempted robbery when Garda Ciaran O’Neill and Garda Ruddy spotted him driving his Volkswagen Passat in Ballyfermot. He hid his face when the officers approached the car to speak to him.
French took off at speed and refused to stop when the gardaí, who chased in their patrol car, directed him. It was rush-hour evening traffic and as French got up to 80 kph in a 50 kph zone, Garda O’Neill said he felt it was unsafe to continue the chase.
He told Eilis Brennan BL, prosecuting that he saw French overtake cars and two horses and traps in “extremely dangerous” manoeuvres, narrowly avoiding head-on collisions.
Garda O’Neill said French continued to drive at 100 kph in a 50 kph zone onto the Ninth Lock Road. He drove on the wrong side of the road around narrow bends, until he was eventually hemmed in by traffic.
It was at this point that both gardaí got out of the patrol car to approach French and he reversed at speed in the direction of Garda Ruddy.
Garda O’Neill said he had spotted the Passat’s reverse lights come on but his colleague hadn’t. He shouted at her to get back into the patrol car because he said he was worried she would be knocked over.
He told Ms Brennan that French was driving at such speed that if Garda Ruddy hadn’t managed to get into the patrol car when she did, she would have been seriously injured or killed. She just managed to close the door of the car when the Passat drove past.
French got stuck behind a Dublin bus and other traffic a short time later and gardaí managed to move in and arrest him. He had no driving license and he wasn’t insured.
Garda O’Neill agreed with Shane Costelloe SC, defending, that his client had not deliberately tried to harm Garda Ruddy, rather he was behaving recklessly in an attempt to evade arrest.