A young Palestinian man who led pursuing gardaí and the garda helicopter on a high speed chase through the city centre, driving on the pavement and the wrong way up one-way streets, has received a two-year suspended sentence.
Naeem Salem (aged 22) of Castlefield Court, Clonsilla but originally from the Palestinian Territories, said he panicked on seeing gardaí because he had no insurance and sped off.
He pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to nine counts, comprising of dangerous driving, reckless endangerment and no insurance at various locations across the city on February 8, 2009.
Ordering that Salem also complete 200 hours community service and fining him €1,000, Judge Katherine Delahunt said it was lucky no one was killed on the night.
Judge Delahunt said the court noted that Salem understood the seriousness of his behaviour and that he came from a respectable, hardworking family.
She banned Salem from driving for a period of four years and ordered that he continue to visit his GP and take prescribed medication for anxiety and panic attacks as part of the requirements for his suspended sentence.
Garda Thomas Connolly told Ms Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that he was in a patrol car in Bluebell which was equipped with a video camera when he saw a Honda Civic driving dangerously on the wet roads.
He put on the siren and Salem sped off towards the city centre, going at speeds of up to 135 kilometres per hour and breaking several red lights. He was recorded driving on a pedestrian walkway by St Stephen’s Green and driving the wrong way up Harcourt Street.
The helicopter was called in and saw the car weave in and out of traffic at speed near Christchurch. Gardaí deployed a “stinger” to puncture the cars tyres and bring it to a stop near the railway station in Clonsilla.
Salem was arrested and gardaí found he had no insurance. Gda Connolly said he was very co-operative in interview and admitted he was “stupid” and said he regretted it. He has 15 previous conviction for road traffic offences, public order and possession of drugs.
Defence counsel, Mr David Wheelahan BL, said Salem came from a good family who had arrived in Ireland when he was 10. He said he had “spent his formative years in a war zone” but they have been granted asylum in Ireland.
He said he was not currently working but had worked with IBM and hopes to get more work with them soon.