‘Nothing short of miraculous’ no road users were injured

By Jessica Magee

A JUDGE has described it as “nothing short of miraculous” that no road users were injured during an extremely dangerous car chase that took place in Kildare and Dublin last year.

A court heard that 23-year-old Christopher Prentice was driving a stolen car when he broke red lights at speeds of over 180kmph, drove on the wrong side of the road and mounted the kerb while being pursued by gardai.

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Prentice, of Brookview Gardens, Tallaght was sentenced to three and a half years in jail with the final 12 months suspended.

He was also disqualified from driving for five years.

He pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of unlawfully using a car in Crumlin on May 3, last.

He further admitted three counts of dangerous driving on the same day at Hazelhatch, Celbridge, Co Kildare, the Celbridge interchange in Leixlip and on Whitehall Road, Terenure in Dublin 6.

Passing sentence on Friday (January 25), Judge Melanie Greally said that what started out as the straightforward theft of a car turned into an extremely serious incident of dangerous driving, prompted by the fact that gardai saw Prentice in the car when the theft was reported.

“He drove in a manner which was exceedingly dangerous and it was nothing short of miraculous that no damage was done or no injury to other road users by reason of his outrageous speed, breaking lights, crossing lanes, driving through junctions and forcing cars out of lane,” said the judge.

Garda William Lyons told the court that gardai driving an unmarked car on the Naas Road towards Newcastle, Co Kildare, saw Prentice driving a jeep which they had just heard had been stolen.

They followed Prentice from a distance and saw him suddenly take off at speed and drive on the wrong side of the road.

Gardai gave chase and described Prentice driving “blindly” through red lights, failing to stop and forcing oncoming vehicles to swerve out of his way.

Prentice was seen driving towards Lucan at speeds of over 180kmph, swerving from side to side across three lanes of traffic, until at one point his speed was so great that he lost control and spun around, mounting a kerb.

Prentice knocked down a “stop” sign and continued to drive at 180kmph through Whitehall and Kimmage, eventually coming to a stop in a driveway on Raphoe Road. Gardai parked behind him and arrested him.

Prentice has 33 previous convictions, including one for drink driving and one for the unlawful seizure of a car.

Gda Lyons agreed with James Dwyer SC, defending, that Prentice had various cuts and bruises and told gardai he had been drinking and taking drugs for a week.

Gda Lyons also accepted that the dangerous driving incident was precipitated by Prentice being pursued by the guards.

Prentice wrote a letter to court in which he said he was so sorry and angry with himself and that he was really trying to turn his life around.

Mr Dwyer said Prentice's father had died the previous year, causing him to go “off the rails”.

Counsel said his client was doing well in custody where he was on enhanced prisoner status and had achieved training certificates in food safety, cardiac response and crime awareness.

The court heard that Prentice had benefited greatly from seeing a psychiatrist and intended to go for drug treatment at Coolmine rehabilitation centre.

Judge Greally noted that Prentice had been going through a difficult time in his personal life and had submitted an early guilty plea.

The sentence was backdated to last May, when Prentice went into custody.

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