30 Sept 2022

Drunk driver with 84 previous convictions who struck garda in Donegal given three year suspended sentence

Letterkenny Circuit Court heard that he had been out drinking with his work colleagues in Letterkenny before he returned home and got his car.

Drunk driver with 84 previous convictions who struck garda in Donegal given three year suspended sentence

Letterkenny Courthouse

A drunk driver with 84 previous convictions who reversed his car at speed and struck a garda as he tried to evade arrest has escaped a prison sentence.

Paul McGillion of 1 Greenhills, Manorcunningham was sentenced at Letterkenny Circuit Court after he admitted a series of charges connected to endangerment.

The 32 year-old had admitted endangerment, dangerous driving,drink driving, driving without insurance and driving without a license.

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.

He was surrounded by five gardaí on foot who were running towards his car when he observed 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.

The court heard how McGillion had committed the majority of his offences while living in Northern Ireland. He had not committed any offence since 2011 until he went out socialising after work on the night of July 24th, 2015

Garda Marcus O’Dowd told the court that gardaí received a report at 3am of a silver Honda spinning its wheel and driving off at speed.

Garda Alfie McHale, who was on mobile patrol, followed the car but could not keep up with it.

Garda O’Dowd said he and a colleague began a search for the vehicle, and it was spotted on Convent Road traveling at high speed.

At 4.15 am the car was seen driving down Lower Main Street on CCTV and gardaí blocked its exit from Larkin’s Lane.

Garda Kilcoyne ran to the driver's door. The car spun its wheels and drove towards the area blocked by the Garda van.

Garda O’Dowd said the car reversed and aggressively backwards and hit Garda Kilcoyne’s leg.

He told the court that the driver would have seen Garda Kilcoyne. “He would have known he was standing there,” he said.

He then drove at Garda O’Dowd’s patrol car and only slammed on his brakes at the last second.

Garda O’Dowd said the doors of the car were locked and he used his baton to break the passenger window. McGillion resisted and Garda O’Dowd managed to handcuff him.

McGillion continued to be aggressive and was cursing and swearing.

Garda O’Dowd said he detected a smell of alcohol. McGillion was breathalysed and had a reading of 47.

He admitted later that he had no insurance or driving licence and he was “full drunk “ behind the wheel.

Garda Kilcoyne suffered nerve damage to right leg and was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital.

The court heard McGillion had 85 previous convictions, including 74 from Northern Ireland.

Assaults of police officers

The offences included dangerous driving, drink driving, assaults on police officers and thefts from 2001 to 2011.

After reading the medical report, Judge Terence O’Sullivan said the injuries to Garda Kilcoyne were life changing.

Defence counsel, Seán Mac Aodha, said McGillion was born in Strabane. At the age of 17 had an altercation with a man which later resulted in him sustaining very serious injuries which left him in hospital for four months.

From 2001 to 2011 McGillion suffered mental health issues and abused drugs and alcohol.

He said his client had been abandoned by his father at a very young age and was brought up by his mother and grandmother.

He had fallen in with the wrong company and had become addicted to both drink and drugs, but had managed to turn his life around.

He then went back to college and took up work in Letterkenny. He married and had two children.

He said the events on that nig were “major blip”.

Giving evidence McGillion blamed a combination of stress due to the terminal illness of his grandmother, and the fact that he was preparing for his marriage.

He apologised to both Garda O'Dowd and Kilcoyne who were in the courtroom.

"My life was in turmoil and I didn't care if I lived or died. But all that changed when my wife became pregnant with my daughter,” he told the court.

Judge Terence O'Sullivan said that this was perhaps the trickiest case he had dealt with in many years.

He said there was no question that Garda Kilcoyne was seriously injured and will have to live with those injuries as a result.

If McGillion had not pleaded guilty, he would be looking at serving five years in prison.

He said McGillion had shown remorse and had put his previous life behind him to a great extent.

"I have to try and sentence the offender and not the offence," he said.

He referred to a medical report on McGillion, which suggested that if he stays away from polysubstance that he will make a full recovery.

"The issue is should I unravel his life, which a prison sentence will do, or should I tie his hands? If I throw him under the bus I think I will seriously unravel his life and that of his family."

He imposed a three-year sentence and suspended the sentence for three years on a number of conditions which stipulated that McGillion remains alcohol-free, stays away from polysubstances and continues to attend for medical treatment.

McGillion was disqualified from driving for five years for dangerous driving and fined €500.

He was also disqualified concurrently for a further four years for drink-driving. He was given a further four year ban, also concurrently, for having no insurance.

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