Cork sulky racers get jail terms reduced to three months

Horse race on busy roadway became YouTube sensation with over 400,000 hits


Five men have been jailed for three months each after they failed in their appeal against custodial sentences for their involvement in a sulky race on the main Cork-Mallow Road which became a sensation on YouTube with over 400,000 hits.

Today at Cork Circuit Court, Judge David Riordan confirmed the five-month sentences imposed on the five men from Cork city, but suspended the final two months on condition that each of the five be of good behaviour and keep the peace for a period of two years.

Before the court were Bernie McDonagh, the Halting Site, Nash’s Boreen; Jimmy O’Brien, Innishannon Road, Fairhill; Patrick O’Brien of Woodford, Rossa Avenue; and Danny Stokes and Christopher Roche, both of St Anthony’s Park Halting Site, Knocknaheeny, all in Cork city.

Video of sulky race

All five had been sentenced to five months in jail and disqualified from driving for six years by Judge Olann Kelleher when they pleaded guilty last February at Cork District Court to dangerous driving offences on the main Cork-Mallow Road on May 5th, 2012.

Judge Riordan affirmed Judge Kelleher’s order in respect of the custodial sentences, but suspended the final two months in each case and reduced the disqualification period from six years to five years, as well as confirming €300 fines for each accused for other road traffic offences.

“The court has to send out a message that this type of behaviour or any repetition of this type of behaviour will not be tolerated on our roads - it merits a custodial sentence,” said Judge Riordan, as he imposed the five-month terms with two months suspended.

Sgt Ken O’Sullivan told the court how the five men were among a group who attended the pre-planned sulky race between Christy’s Filly and Russian Lady held at 8am on the morning in question on the main Cork-Mallow Road over a 2km stretch.

The race began when the two sulkys, which had been heading towards Cork, did a U-turn on the N20 at Shean Upper near Blarney, and a fleet of cars and vans which had been lined up on the hard shoulder swung in behind them, effectively blocking the outward lane, Sgt O’Sullivan said.

At one point, cars and vans were travelling four abreast across the road with two occupying both the outward hard shoulder and outward lane and another two going on to their incorrect side to occupy the inward bound lane and the inward bound hard shoulder.

At various stages, incoming cars had to swerve on to their hard shoulders to avoid the sulkys or the cars following them and at one stage, one of the vans following the race had to swerve on to the incorrect hard shoulder to narrowly avoid being hit by an oncoming articulated lorry.

Gardaí managed to pull in one of the sulkys but the other sulky driver, Patrick O’Brien, continued racing the horse for a further kilometre or more, reaching speeds of up to 30km/h - sometimes on the wrong side of the road as he swerved to avoid traffic.

Sgt O’Sullivan said it was fortunate that nobody had been injured during the incident, given the road was quite busy at the time. Up to 20 oncoming motorists had to take evasive action at various stages, and many later expressed concern at what had happened.

Three gardaí attended at the scene with one patrol car managing to pull in one of the sulky racers and another driving ahead with lights flashing and siren sounding to warn oncoming motorists after the racers and their entourage disregarded Garda attempts to get them to stop.

Sgt O’Sullivan agreed all the defendants were co-operative with gardaí after the race, when it was put to him by defence barristers Donnacha Kiely and Brendan Kelly that their clients had saved the State the cost and time of a trial by pleading guilty.