Joyriders and burglary gangs are increasingly driving the wrong way down motorways in the knowledge gardaí are unable to chase them, officers believe.
There have been at least four such incidents in the last seven days, including three in a 24 hours period, all of which ended with the suspects escaping, according to gardaí.
Members of the force believe criminals engaging in this practice have been emboldened in recent weeks by the news that a garda is to face criminal charges for his role in a 2021 pursuit on the N7 in Dublin. The chase ended with the death of three prolific burglars when they hit a truck while driving on the wrong side of the road.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has called the more recent pursuits “copycats” of the 2021 incident and said that criminals are exploiting a weakness in the system which prevents gardaí engaging in pursuits in potentially dangerous circumstances.
On Tuesday night, gardaí were pursuing a car containing two men who were suspected of carrying out burglaries in the north Dublin area.
The car, an Opel Insignia, drove on to the M50 motorway and drove the wrong way against traffic between Finglas and Ballymun. Gardaí were unable to continue the pursuit and the suspects escaped.
A similar incident occurred in the early hours of last Friday when a car being pursued by gardaí did a U-turn on the M50 and drove against oncoming traffic before escaping. A few hours later a joyrider being pursued by gardaí did the same thing on the N7 in Co Kildare.
The following evening, gardaí were pursuing a suspected stolen car in the Blanchardstown area when the driver turned on to the M50 and drove against traffic towards the city centre.
Gardaí from Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) West are particularly concerned about the trend.
Local GRA representative Mark Ferris said these incidents are increasing and pose a huge danger both to gardaí and other road users.
“It’s becoming increasingly frustrating for gardaí policing the DMR area as it’s quite clear that these criminals are exposing a weakness in the system,” he said.
Gda Ferris said a “no pursuit” policy is in place which prevents gardaí chasing suspects in dangerous situations. This leaves gardaí feeling “helpless” as they watch criminals “purposely and recklessly” drive into oncoming traffic.
“I believe it is only a matter of time before innocent members of the public suffer serious injury or even worse.”
Gda Ferris said gardaí need to be properly trained to respond to these situations.
There has been a noticeable increase in these incidents since earlier this month when a coroner’s court hearing was told the Garda Ombudsman (Gsoc) is to bring charges against a garda involved in a pursuit that ended in the deaths of Tallaght-based burglars Dean Maguire (29), Karl Freeman (26) and Graham Taylor (31).
The Garda involved has still not been informed what charge he will face, despite his lawyers meeting Gsoc officials.
Legal sources said possible charges include dangerous driving or endangerment. They ruled out the possibility of more serious charges given the fact that the garda was some distance away from the burglars’ BMW when it collided with the truck.
News of the prosecution has caused widespread anger among gardaí and public representatives. “It has left gardaí afraid to do their jobs,” according to one source.
Earlier this week Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said management is working on an updated “live pursuit policy” that will govern pursuits in dangerous situations. “We wish to bring that clarity to the organisation,” he said.