Man (48) spared jail a second time
A Dundalk man given a suspended sentence for accelerating through a garda checkpoint and damaging two patrol cars has been spared jail a second time despite a DPP appeal.
Jarlath Higgins (48), of Caraban, Ravensdale, Dundalk, Co Louth, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at the Táin Bridge and criminal damage to two patrol cars at Faughart Lower in the early hours of November 18, 2015
The Court of Appeal heard that Higgins was driving his Renault Megane north when he encountered a garda checkpoint near the Táin bridge. He had alcohol ‘ on board’ but was not charged with drink driving. A uniformed garda signalled the Renault to stop but Higgins accelerated. The other gardaí present believed Higgins deliberately drove at their colleague, the court heard.
Sirens were activated while Higgins’ vehicle continued north. His car ‘violently fishtailed’ before he was blocked in and he aggressively revved his engine before he was restrained. One of the gardaí was seriously injured and €7,500 worth of damage was caused to the two patrol cars.
He was given wholly suspended sentences of two years and five months and disqualified from driving for three years by Judge Michael O’Shea on May 4, 2017.
Higgins was back in court on Monday facing a review of sentence brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, the three judge Court of Appeal was not satisfied that his sentence was ‘unduly lenient’ and dismissed the DPP’s appeal.
Giving reasons for the court’s decision t lastFriday, Mr Justice John Edwards said the sentencing judge suspended the sentences on account of Higgins’ significant mitigating factors including his previous good character and his good employment record. He said Higgins, who had consumed alcohol, panicked when approaching the checkpoint and overreacted in a grossly disproportionate way. He had a low risk of reoffending and had not driven since the incident.
Mr Justice Edwards said the Director of Public Prosecutions submitted that some custody was required but the Court of Appeal was not persuaded in the circumstances of this case.
He said Higgins now had a criminal record and the sentence that was imposed still sent out a message to the community that his offending conduct is to be ‘ deplored’.
If it wasn’t for his lack of previous convictions and substantial mitigating factors, Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice John Hedigan and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said Higgins would have been required to serve the two years imprisonment.
Counsel for the DPP, Kevin Segrave BL, submitted that Higgins’ suspended sentence was ‘unduly lenient’ because of the speeding involved, the alcohol and the fact that Higgins had ample opportunity to ‘ cease and desist’ long before he damaged the two patrol cars. It was appropriate to jail somebody who ‘ takes on the State in this fashion’, late at night and with alcohol on board, Mr Segrave submitted.