Five jailed over Cork sulky race
Two men were filmed racing each other on akies which consist of two wheels and a seat, held together by metal rods on the main Cork city to Mallow Road last Saturday morning. Photograph: Video still from YouTube/The Irish Times
Five men have been sentenced to five months in jail each for dangerous driving during a sulky race on the main Cork-Limerick road last year which subsequently became a YouTube sensation with close to 400,000 hits.
At Cork District Court today, Judge Olan Kelleher said he was imposing the five month sentence on each of the five to indicate the gravity of the matter and the lack of respect they had shown for other road users when racing two horse drawn sulkies on the main N20 near Blarney at about 8am on May 5th, 2012.
Judge Kelleher also disqualified all five from driving for six years after they each pleaded guilty to dangerous driving on various stretches of the road near Blarney during the course of the pre-planned 2km race between Christy’s Filly and Russian Lady.
Judge Kelleher imposed jail terms and disqualifications for dangerous driving offences on Bernie McDonagh (20), The Halting Site, Nash’s Boreen, Cork, Jimmy O’Brien (28) Innishannon Road, Fairhill, Cork and Patrick O’Brien (25) of Woodford, Rossa Avenue, Cork.
He also imposed jail terms and disqualified Danny Stokes (46) and Christopher Roche (41), both of St Anthony’s Park Halting Site, Knocknaheeny, Cork for dangerous driving. He adjourned sentence on Stokes’s son James (18) for a similar offence pending a probation report.
He also imposed €300 fines on McDonagh, Patrick O’Brien, Roche and Daniel Stokes for obstruction of the roadway. He noted all six accused were "no strangers to the courts" after hearing that, between them, they had 74 previous convictions, mainly for road traffic matters
Sgt Ken O’Sullivan showed Judge Kelleher a five minute long recording of the race taken by a person in a van following the race and which had been posted on YouTube.
The race began when the two sulkies, who had been heading towards Cork, did a u-turn on 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, said Sgt O’Sullivan
At one point, the recording showed cars and vans travelling four abreast across the road with two occupying 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.
A number of oncoming cars had to swerve on to their hard shoulders to avoid the sulkies or the cars following them and at one stage, the race recorder’s van had to swerve on to its incorrect hard shoulder to narrowly avoid being hit by an oncoming articulated lorry.
Gardaí managed to pull in one of the sulky racers but the other sulky driver, Patrick O’Brien continued racing the horse for a further kilometre, 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. He said up to 20 oncoming motorists had to take evasive action at various stages, many of whom 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. Another drove ahead with its lights flashing and siren sounding to warn oncoming motorists after the racers and their entourage disregarded attempts to get them to stop.
Sgt O’Sullivan agreed that all defendants were co-operative with gardaí after the race ended when it was put to him by defence solicitors, Donal Daly and Diarmuid Kelleher. The solicitors said their clients had saved the State the cost and time of a trial by pleading guilty.
Judge Kelleher said he accepted that and he was giving all accused credit for their pleas by imposing five month jail terms rather than the maximum permitted in the District Court of six months. However, it remained a serious matter and the sentences were designed to act as a deterrent.