A driver in a stolen car led gardai on an early morning 20 mile, 130kmph car chase in torrential rain passing two schools and racing through a town’s main street forcing cars, pedestrians and gardai out of the way.
Details of the frightening high speed chase emerged this week when a court heard the driver lost control of the car during torrential rain and crashed into a ditch. Gardai said the driver swerved from side to side into oncoming traffic as they gave chase and drove through a special checkpoint they had set up to stop him.
Martin McClelland with an address at 36 Manorview, Letterkenny, appeared in Letterkenny District Court charged with the unauthorised taking of an MPV, failing to stop for gardai and six counts of dangerous driving across townlands in Fintown, Doochary and Glenties.
Gardai were on patrol in Doochary at 7.45am on June 8, 2011 when they were alerted to reports of a stolen car in the area. When they encountered the vehicle they turned and followed it and observed it “swerve over and back the road at 120kmph” directly into oncoming traffic when the road was busy.
It crossed through townlands Coolboy in Doochary, Shallogans, Currynaferriagh, Straboy, Drumnasillagh and Gortnamucklagh in Genties and at times, travelling at speeds of 130kmph, approached dangerous corners on the wrong side of the road “with no care for oncoming traffic”, Garda Inspector Kevin Gately said.
He almost lost control of the vehicle a number of times and over took two articulated lorries.
He entered Glenties at 120kmph, (a 50km zone), and drove through an organised garda checkpoint forcing officers to take evasive action to avoid being struck.
Drivers and pedestrians on the towns main street were also forced out of the way.
At approximately 8.30am he passed a local playschool and secondary school.
After he drove through the town he crashed into a ditch and took off on foot but he was later arrested by gardai.
He passed a subsequent breath test and admitted he was not insured to drive the vehicle.
McClelland has previous convictions for assault, public order, trespass, criminal damage and arson, the court heard.
Solicitor Patsy Gallagher said his client was unable to explain his actions.
He said it was “difficult to comprehend his mind” at the time and “doesn’t know why it happened”.
His client had been treated for depression previously while jailed for other offences.
Mr Gallagher asked for the case to be adjourned to allow the defendant to be properly assessed.
Judge Paul Kelly said it was not only the worst case of dangerous driving he has heard since being appointed to the bench but also one of the worst he had ever seen in his legal career.
“This was absolutely appalling driving and it is incredible no one was injured. It was sheer luck no one was injured.
“He drove past not one but two schools and pedestrians had to take evasive actions, as did the gardai at the check point. There was a large number of people in serious danger, “ he said.
He said he had no alternative but to impose a custodial sentence.
He jailed him for six months each for two of the dangerous driving charges and fined him €350 for failing to stop for gardai. The other charges were taken into consideration.