The Donegal Garda Representative Association (GRA) spokesperson has called for the introduction of mandatory sentencing for those who carry out assaults on gardaí and members of the emergency services.
Garda Brendan O'Connor made his call following Friday's case at Letterkenny Circuit Court which saw a drunk driver with 80 previous convictions, who struck a garda with the car he was driving, being handed a three year suspended prison sentence.
While stating that he was not in a position to comment on any particular case where a member of the gardai has been assaulted, th GRA rep said: "If people faced mandatory sentences for assaults on gardaí and emergency personnel, including the use of a vehicle it would act as a deterrent, that protection isn't there at the moment."
Paul McGillion of 1 Greenhills, Manorcunningham was sentenced at Letterkenny Circuit Court after he admitted a series of charges connected to endangerment.
Letterkenny Circuit Court heard that he had been out drinking with his work colleagues in Letterkenny before he returned home and got his car. After being spotted by gardaí driving at speed, he was followed to Larkin’s Lane off Lower Main Street where a Garda public order van and car patrol car blocked his escape on July 24th, 2015.
He reversed at high speed, and struck Garda Michael Kilcoyne on the thigh. After reading a medical report, Judge Terence O’Sullivan described the injuries as life changing.
Garda O'Connor believes the time has come to review the penalty for assaults on gardaí.
The GRA spokesperson in Donegal said that people are "all too aware" of the difficulties and dangers that gardaí and members of the emergency services face in Donegal.
"The border can act as an incentive for drivers not to stop when gardai attempt to stop them. Some drivers think that if they they cross the border they can avoid prosecution. People are also aware of the depleted resources that the gardaí are operating under here in Donegal and should they get away from one patrol car, they feel that they have less chance of getting caught or being detected by another patrol,” he said.
The Dunfanaghy-based garda said that gardaí face danger every day: "Yes, I do think that gardaí face danger, physical danger. People who chose not to stop in cars, put their own lives, the lives of the public and the lives of gardaí at risk. Such people are prepared to act with total disregard for anyone's safety and mandatorily sentencing should reflect the risks associated with their recklessness.”
He added that the GRA believe that mandatory sentences for any attack or assault on garda members and other emergency personnel is required to act as a deterrent to those who wish to break the law.
"Time and time again, we see people taking extreme action to evade detection and it's our members who are exposed to extreme danger as a result. We believe that mandatory sentences would go some way to address this issue and provide better protection to all emergency service personnel. If people faced mandatory sentences for assaults on gardaí and emergency personnel, including the use of a vehicle it would act as a deterrent, that protection isn't there at the moment," he said.