A Dublin man who continued to drive a badly damaged stolen car on three wheel rims while being followed by seven garda patrol cars has been jailed for five and a half years.
Callum Norton (24) was on a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence for a firearms offence when he hot-wired a car after an argument with his then partner and said he panicked when he saw gardai, failed to stop and drove dangerously at high speed.
Norton, of Sheepmoor Crescent, Blanchardstown, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to unauthorised taking of a car, dangerous driving, criminal damage to a car and driving without insurance or a driving licence in north Co Dublin.
He further pleaded guilty to possession of drugs for sale or supply on August 23rd, 2019.
Garda Chris Bellew told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that he was on mobile patrol when he spotted a red Mitsubishi Colt which had earlier been reported as failing to stop for gardaí in Skerries.
Lost its tyres
He said the vehicle, with Norton as the sole occupant, was travelling in the direction of Swords and at this point had lost a tyre and was driving on a wheel rim, causing sparks and dust on the road.
Gardai signalled to it to stop and kept the car under observation as it drove at speed through a roundabout on the wrong side, causing other road users to swerve out of the way. It was at one point followed by seven patrol cars as it drove through a red light and over speed bumps.
A cyclist had to take evasive action, mounting the grass verge and falling off their bike.
The car lost another two tyres, driving on three wheel rims, before Norton lost control and reduced speed but did not stop. Gardai ran to the car while it was still moving before it came to a halt.
The stolen car had been hot-wired to start, causing significant damage to the ignition. The car was effectively a write-off when it finally stopped.
The court heard in relation to the drugs charge that gardaí had found cannabis and cocaine with a total value of €7,500 during a search of his home in August 2019.
Emmet Nolan BL, defending, told the court Norton had co-operated with the drugs search, first on the street and later in his home, and described himself as a "small fish in a big pond". He said there was an element of "self-defeating bravado" in his statement to gardai.
Norton has 14 previous convictions and was on a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence for a firearms offence at the time of these crimes. That sentence had been imposed in June 2019.
Mr Nolan said Norton had panicked when he saw gardai in relation to the driving offences and knew he would be in serious trouble. He said his client instructed he had been abusing tablets and cannabis.
'Fast lifestyle of easy money'
Counsel said the use of drugs had led his client into criminality and he had been attracted to the "fast lifestyle of easy money" but now realises that this is a complete fallacy. He said he has found there is no glamour now that he is caught and he will pay a substantial penalty with the loss of his liberty.
He said the driving offences arose against the background of being involved in a tumultuous relationship where there would be frequent arguments and his way of dealing with it would be to go out and abuse drugs. He said it was remarkable that no one was killed or injured during the driving.
Mr Nolan said Norton has a good work history and has managed to hold down a job throughout, but his difficulties arise from his drug use. He said Norton has tremendous potential which he is wasting. He is now a father and enjoys the support of his family.
He asked the court to impose a substantial sentence that meets the justice of the case but leaves his client with light at the end of the tunnel. He said his client is full of remorse and shame.
Judge Melanie Greally said Norton had driven the car in a highly dangerous way and continued when it was clearly no longer fit to be driven.
She noted the earlier drugs offence had occurred very shortly after she had given him a suspended sentence for a firearms offence. She said he seemed to her that he had never had genuinely intended to engage with the Probation Service or observe the peace bond imposed.
Judge Greally noted he came from a hardworking and decent background but developed an addiction at a young age. She imposed consecutive sentences totalling four and a half years before reactivating the two-and-a-half year suspended sentence and suspending the final 18 months.