A disqualified motorist who crossed over on to the wrong side of a busy west-Cork road 20 times while driving when drunk has been jailed for three years and further disqualified from driving for 20 years.
Daniel Culhane (30) of Owenahincha, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to several offences, including endangerment, dangerous driving, drunken driving, driving without insurance and driving while disqualified, when he appeared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Monday.
Det Garda Manus O'Donnell outlined the background to Culhane's offending as he was driving his grey Citroen erratically along the R586 between Bandon and Enniskeane at about 10.25am on December 16th 2020 when a passenger in a car behind him began filming his driving on a phone.
Det Garda O’Donnell showed some of the footage in court with several narrow escapes along the 2.5km road where oncoming drivers had to take evasive action to avoid crashing into Culhane when he drove on the wrong side.
Culhane crossed over to the wrong side 20 times while he also veered into the ditch on either side of the road on five occasions before finally pulling in and coming to a halt, said Det Garda O’Donnell.
The motorist who was driving behind Culhane pulled in to block him getting out. He and his passenger were joined by other members of the public in detaining Culhane who made threats to kill one of the people, whom he knew, before gardaí arrived and arrested him, the court heard.
Det Garda O’Donnell said that Culhane appeared highly intoxicated at the time and a breath test after his arrest revealed he was over the legal limit with an alcohol concentration of 74mg of alcohol per 100ml.
He said that when Culhane sobered up he had no recollection of the events. But he accepted that it was him driving the car when the footage was shown to him by gardaí and he apologised for his actions.
Det Garda O'Donnell said Culhane had a total of 53 previous convictions including for burglary, criminal damage and drunken-driving. He had been disqualified from driving having been convicted in January 2019 at Clonakilty District Court of driving without insurance in 2018.
Defence counsel Dermot Sheehan SC said Culhane had become addicted to heroin at the age of 17 or 18, which was when he began committing offences. He said his client had overcome that addiction and gone through a good period from 2011 to 2018, but he then became addicted to alcohol.
He had been in Cuan Mhuire Treatment Centre in Cork getting help for his alcohol addiction up until November 5th.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said Culhane’s driving was “all over the place, so much so as to suggest he wasn’t in touch with reality at all”.
“The first thing to say is that this man has shown complete disregard to all other road users, the legislation and the courts given that he was banned from driving at the time and yet here he is veering all over the road and that is significantly worrying,” said the judge. “We are all very lucky that even more dreadful consequences didn’t occur.”
The judge added that Culhane’s driving was “a real and active endangerment for other road users”. He imposed a four-year term, but suspended one year to assist Culhane with rehabilitation. He also disqualified Culhane from driving for 20 years.