Man who rammed car through Trinity gates not guilty by reason of insanity
Court told over €33,000 worth of damage caused when John Farrell went on rampage
John Farrell (69), of Fassaugh Road, Cabra, Dublin leaves the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after he was found not guilty, of criminal damage and road traffic offences, by reason of insanity. Photograph: Collins Courts.
A 69-year-old man accused of ramming his car through the front gates of Trinity College has been found not guilty of criminal damage and road traffic offences by reason of insanity.
The main cost of the damage went towards replacing the college’s 18th century wooden entrance gates, which were effectively destroyed when Mr Farrell smashed his Mercedes through them.
On the day, Mr Farrell said, “I’m sorry for what I done (sic). I don’t want fame, I just want peace of mind.”
At the start of his trial on Wednesday at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Mr Farrell denied five counts of criminal damage, four counts of endangerment by driving towards people at speed, three counts of dangerous driving and two counts of failing to stop after a collision.
The jury, composed on nine men and three women, took just 42 minutes on Thursday to return with a unanimous verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity on all counts against Mr Farrell.
Before the jury went out, Judge Patricia Ryan reminded them that Dr Paul O’Connor, consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, gave evidence that Mr Farrell was suffering from “hyper-mania” at the time of the incident.
Dr O’Connor said Mr Farrell satisfied the legal definition of insanity, in that he did not know that what he was doing was morally wrong and lacked the capacity to take on board the gravity or consequences of his actions.
Furthermore, Dr O’Connell said Mr Farrell was unable to refrain or stop himself on the day, nor to consider alternative courses of actions.
Judge Ryan noted that Dr O’Connell also said Mr Farrell had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, had undergone several periods of hospitalisation, and had a history of aggression since 2004.
At the start of the trial Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting, said Mr Farrell did not dispute any of the actions alleged against him. She said it would be up to the jury to decide on the mental intention of Mr Farrell on the day.
Garda Anthony Brazil told the prosecution that security officer at Trinity, Alan Currivan, opened the front gates of Trinity at 6:15am to a van with two men who were due to carry out upholstery work in the college.
Mr Farrell drove a black Mercedes through the gates after the van, with music blaring loudly from his radio and the window down.
Mr Currivan said Mr Farrell had a “stern stare” and looked vacant as he refused to turn down his radio and then accelerated into the front square at speed.
John O’Rourke, security superintendent at Trinity, had seen the Mercedes coming in on CCTV and ordered the narrow steel gates at the back of the college to be closed and two steel barriers to be placed in front of them.
Another security guard, David Doolan, stopped Mr Farrell’s car and noticed that his tongue was pressed against his lower lip and his eyes were bulging out of his head.
Mr Farrell asked Mr Doolan, “where am I?” but drove off before he got an answer. The accused then did a u-turn in the college’s rugby car park and drove directly at two security men who had to jump out of the way.
Mr Farrell then drove over flowerbeds, scattering people who panicked and ran for shelter, and smashed straight through two steel barriers and a set of iron gates, with sparks flying as one of the barriers caught his front bumper.
Security men shouted at four or five cleaning staff to get out of the way, and then Mr Farrell drove at speed towards the closed wooden front gates, shouting at Mr Currivan, “Open them (sic) f**king gates”.
He made no impact the first time, but reversed and drove at the gates harder, breaking through on the third go and hitting a college van on the far side.
Gardaí arrived and took the key from the ignition in the accused’s car, but it took four officers to prise Mr Farrell’s hands from his very tight grip on the steering wheel.
Gardaí thought Mr Farrell was heavily intoxicated, but a blood test showed zero presence of alcohol in his system.
When asked if he remembered driving into the Trinity gates, he said he had heard a bang and some noises but thought he was driving into his own gates at home.
Mr Farrell was assessed by a doctor who said he was “thought-disordered and lacking insight” and committed him to a psychiatric unit.