Gardaí were rammed at high speed by a stolen jeep driven in reverse on a narrow country road in North Cork, with a judge saying the two officers were almost killed on the night.
“It is appalling that gardaí are exposed to such horrific dangers,” said Judge Gerard O’Brien yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
“Ordinary policing of quiet rural areas does not appear to be able to be done without armed response units.
“That is appalling — a terrible development in Irish society.”
In the ramming incident, the back wheels of the stolen vehicle rolled up and smashed the Garda windscreen.
Detective Sergeant Derek Mulcahy said the incident was so serious that it led to a change of policing in North Cork.
“This was the first time guards in Kanturk were targeted like this,” Det Sgt Mulcahy said.
Derek Kelly, aged 30, of Coolageela, Kanturk, Co Cork, and Orchard Court, Banteer, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to charges of stealing the jeep at Curraraigue, Rathcoole, on January 14.
He also pleaded guilty to endangerment of Garda Ian Doolan and Garda Clement Sillery at Coolageela, Kanturk, by ramming the jeep into the garda car, causing a risk of death or serious injury.
The jeep was stolen shortly before midnight and the ramming occurred early on January 15.
The jeep rammed the garda car as the driver ignored the blue light and siren, signalling for him to stop.
A second ramming incident occurred later in the pursuit.
Gardaí were reversing away from the jeep, which sped up in reverse and rammed them with such ferocity that the rear wheels of the jeep rolled up on the garda car and crashed through the windscreen.
Det Sgt Mulcahy said it could have landed on top of the two gardaí, but for the fact that it turned over.
He said of Kelly: “He was interviewed on six occasions. He made no admissions.
“He never enquired about the two injured gardaí or showed remorse about what happened,” Det Sgt Mulcahy said.
Yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Kelly said: “I am so sorry for the things I done and the harm I caused to the gardaí that night.
“I regret what happened. It shouldn’t have happened. I was addicted to heroin,” he said.
“That went and then it was tablets.
Kelly had 113 previous convictions, including two for stealing cars and three for burglary.
As well as pleading guilty to stealing the vehicle and the endangerment, he also admitted damaging the garda car and handling stolen property.
Imelda Kelly, prosecution barrister, said there was no suggestion that the defendant was involved in a burglary that night, but she said he was found with stolen property.
Det Sgt Mulcahy said that before the ramming of the garda car, two houses were burgled in the Ballydesmond area.
Judge O’Brien said he would sentence Kelly on June 15.
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