A disqualified driver who was drunk when he drove his car at a garda, leaving him with "life changing" issues, has been sent to jail after his original suspended sentence was deemed too lenient.
Paul McGillion (33) with an adress at Ard Caoin, Manorcunningham, Co Donegal, had pleaded guitly to reckless endangerment of Garda Michael Kilcoyne, dangerous driving, drink driving, driving without insurance and driving without a valid license in Letterkenny on July 25, 2015.
He was given a wholly suspended three year sentence and banned him from driving by Judge Terence O'Sullivan on May 4, 2017.
McGillion was sent to jail this evening(Monday) after an application for a review of his sentence brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions. In finding that his original sentence was “unduly lenient”, the Court of Appeal sent him to jail for 12 months.
Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said gardaí had received reports of a silver sports car spinning its wheels on main street Letterkenny at about 3am on the morning in question. When an attempt was made to stop the vehicle, it sped away at high speed.
Later, while “cornered” in a lane, Garda Kilcoyne approached the drivers side of the vehicle but McGillion attempted to exit the lane. When he found that he was unable to escape, he reversed aggressively, making contact with the garda's right upper leg.
Mr Justice Mahon said McGillion then drove at a number of gardaí causing five of them to jump out of his way. A baton was used to smash the window and McGillion was removed from the vehicle but he continued to be aggressive and violent.
He was found to be in excess of the legal limit for alcohol, had no insurance or license and was in fact disqualified from driving at the time.
He had 85 previous convictions, including 74 recorded in Northern Ireland. Many were for dangerous driving, drink driving and assaults on police officers.
Some days after the incident, McGillion attended a garda station and apologised for his behaviour.
Mr Justice Mahon said McGillion had a clean record and had turned his life around since these offences were committed. He was now the “valued employee” of a major multinational company working in insurance.
Mr Justice Mahon said two features required emphasis: Garda Kilcoyne was severely injured and had suffered significant levels of pain and discomfort. It had impacted his personal and professional life in a very real way.
These were "life changing" issues for the garda, the judge said, not because of any accident or negligent mishap but by McGillion's attempt to “escape at all costs” - striking the garda “if necessary”.
Mr Justice Mahon said McGillion knew he was seriously endangering the life of a garda doing his duty. This aspect of the case made a sentence containing some element of custody “almost inevitable”.
Secondly, McGillion had an “appalling history of repeat offending” for relevant offences as well as offences of assaulting police officers in Northern Ireland.
Mr Justice Mahon said the sentencing judge had good reason to exercise leniency. He was clearly impressed by the turnaround in McGillion's life and had felt strongly that a custodial sentence would be a “retrograde step” which risked undoing the significant rehabilitation McGillion had achieved up until then.
Mr Justice Mahon said the combination of McGillion's dysfunctional background, his large number of previous convictions, the seriousness of these offences, his “quite remarkable” rehabilitation since the offences and the decision to settle down and maintain worthwhile employment made the case unusual.
However, offending involving the driving of a car at one or more member of An Garda Síochánna merely doing their duty in the interests of public safety, required a custodial sentence, the judge said. There were not, then or now, exceptional circumstances that would justify a non-custodial sentence.
Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would impose a new three year sentence with the final two years suspended. The court did not interfere with the driving ban already in place.
McGillion was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period and he undertook to be so bound.
He was immediately lead away to begin his serving his sentence.