A young woman driving to work in North Cork at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning feared for her life because of the dangerous driving of a young farmer who drove after her – even when she turned around and went in the opposite direction.
29-year-old Darragh O’Keeffe of Ballinguile, Churchtown, Mallow, County Cork, pleaded guilty to endangerment and dangerous driving at Churchtown.
Garda John Curtin of Mallow garda station said that a young woman driving to work at 7am that Sunday morning – June 7, 2020 - got dashcam footage of the incident.
The footage was played at O’Keefe’s sentencing hearing in Cork Circuit Criminal Court and the audio content of the recording made it clear that the young woman was terrified by the driver who drove beside her, passed her and reversed back towards her a number of times during the four-minute episode.
She telephoned her father and screamed into the phone, not knowing what was happening.
Darragh O’Keeffe could be seen at one stage staggering on the road during the incident and it also captured his extremely erratic and unpredictable driving on the morning.
At first, his jeep-type vehicle took up the lane on the right side of the road but faced the same direction as the young woman’s car travelling correctly on the left side of the road. She drove slowly past him and then drove off. He followed her and overtook her and then turned and drove back towards her.
He got out of his vehicle and walked toward her. She reversed to get away from him and he followed her again, travelling now in the opposite direction to her original path of travel. This went on for five kilometres. Again he got out of his vehicle and approached her.
“She feared for her life… There was no connection between the parties. They never met before,” Garda Curtin said. And despite all of the events described, there was no actual physical interaction between the parties that morning.
Emmet Boyle, defence barrister, said: “He works as a farmer. He has no previous convictions. The whole thing lasts four minutes.
“When questioned, he said he would not like what happened to happen to anyone belonging to him – his sister or anyone else. He said, ‘I am just sorry to the girl.’"
“He accepts his behaviour was shameful. This was four minutes in an otherwise blameless life. There is an expression of shame and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.” Mr Boyle said the defendant had paid €5,000 compensation to the young woman, who has also initiated a civil case against the defendant.
The DPP consented to summary jurisdiction but the judge in the district court did not accept jurisdiction.
Judge Helen Boyle noted the expression of remorse and the absence of previous convictions and the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions considered the matter was suitable for the district court.
The judge imposed a suspended two-year sentence and disqualified Darragh O’Keeffe from driving for two years.