Disqualified ‘stoned’ driver led gardaí on chase

Rachel O’Donovan at the district court in Bandon, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

A young mother disqualified from driving failed to stop at a Garda checkpoint and was pursued by a patrol car for 45 minutes from West Cork to Cork City while she was “stoned” from cannabis.

In what Judge James McNulty said was a callous disregard for the lives of gardaí and other road users, 20-year-old Rachel O’Donovan passed through roundabouts on the wrong side, overtook cars at high speed, drove through red lights, drove on the wrong side of the road and did a handbrake turn at Dennehy’s Cross in Cork City in a determined attempt to escape gardaí.

The mother of one, from 21 Glenfield, Dublin Hill, Cork faced seven charges of dangerous driving, not having insurance, and driving while disqualified.

At Bandon District Court yesterday, the judge said that her behaviour was quite shocking and she had put numerous lives at risk on a Saturday night/Sunday morning on November 17/18 last.

O’Donovan, the mother of a one-year-old child, was sentenced to 90 days’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for six years.

A nail bar employee, she had previously been banned at Midleton District Court last June for not having insurance and dangerous driving.

Judge McNulty spoke of O’Donovan’s callous and grossly irresponsible behaviour during a garda pursuit from Innishannon to Cork City which commenced at 11.30pm and continued until 12.30am.

“The facts are, while uninsured, she was driving after smoking a joint, so she was driving while stoned at the time,” said Judge McNulty.

“Her driving put the lives of many others at risk.”

Prosecuting, Sgt Brian Harte said that after being arrested for drug driving, O’Donovan’s blood analysis showed 7.8 mgs. The legal limit is 5mgs.

He said gardaí performing a checkpoint at Laherfineen outside Innishannon saw a car approach. It failed to stop and gardaí gave chase with blue lights and siren activated. The driver of the car went through a red traffic light at speed and drove through Innishannon village on the wrong side of the road.

Heading towards Cork, the car again drove on the wrong side and had to swerve to avoid approaching traffic.

Sgt Harte said that, at Barna Cross, the driver of the car overtook vehicles at speed and drove on the wrong side. It also drove on the wrong side of a roundabout approaching the CIT junction.

At Dennehy’s Cross, the driver of the car performed a handbrake turn and continued along Model Farm Rd on the wrong side and through red traffic lights.

The driver headed towards the city and finally came to a stop at Shanakiel where O’Donovan tried to flee but was apprehended.

Solicitor Eamonn Fleming said O’Donovan had travelled to West Cork with a now former boyfriend who had been buying a car. The man took her phone and pressurised her into driving the second car to the city. She had smoked a joint with him, the solicitor said.

He also said the defendant, who pleaded guilty to all charges, regretted her behaviour.

Mr Fleming said, by the grace of God, there were no injuries and pleaded that a community service could be considered as a punishment. He asked the judge not to consider a custodial sentence but Judge McNulty said it was “time for her to go away”.

He said they were serious offences which warranted serious penalties and a community service would be inappropriate.

Bail was fixed for appeal purposes.

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