A motorist who drove off and dragged a garda for over 80 feet along a road in Co Cork as she tried to intercept a drug deal has been jailed for three years.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Det Garda Catherine McCarthy, the first woman ever to be appointed to the Divisional Drugs Unit, went to a car at Creagh in Baltimore on April 8th, 2021, after seeing Martin Keohane (34) buying cannabis from a dealer.
She told Keohane to stop and identified herself as a member of An Garda Síochána. Keohane, of Derrygareen, Skibbereen, Co Cork, attempted to drive off. Det Garda McCarthy tried to take his car keys out of the ignition.
The detective said in her victim impact statement that without warning she heard tyres skidding on the gravel.
“Next I was travelling at speed in his car window, shouting and begging him to stop. What happened relatively quickly felt like an eternity.
“With my legs uncontrollably dragging along the road, the speed was getting faster and I thought I was going to get dragged underneath the car.
“I had no way of preventing this from happening. I have never experienced such fear and a foreboding feeling of ‘this is it, I am going to die.’
“I still cannot remember how I came off the car and ended up lying on the opposite side of the road so far up from where I started.”
Det Garda McCarthy said that when Keohane drove off, she felt an overpowering surge of both “anger and gratitude”.
“Gratitude that I was alive. As I tried to get my bearings, I realised I was very near the bend of the road and if a car came around the corner it would not expect me to be there and I would again be driven over.
“I began to panic, shouted at my colleagues for help and attempted to shuffle in to the ditch as I could not stand. I saw the shock on their faces. They came to my assistance.”
Quality of life
Det Garda McCarthy has suffered a huge change in her quality of life since the incident, the court heard.
“The constant pain I have in my neck, mid- and lower-back impede me from being an active mother to my young children. I cannot run around and play games with them.
“I played sport for over 20 years prior to having children. Sitting on the floor making jigsaws or colouring is a painful task. Lifting them is too much of a struggle that I have to avoid doing so. I experience a lot of guilt for my children as I feel I’m not the mother they had/deserve. I feel they have been cheated.
“Professionally, I feel my career is suffering due to my extended periods of absence. I am missing out on ongoing investigations. This bothers me greatly. I miss being involved and part of the team.
“Outwardly I appear healthy. Physically I am constantly struggling to get through small task and needing relief from pain. I’m constantly wearing medicated pain patches, taking painkillers additionally and medications to elevate my mood/PTSD/sleep.”
Keohane pleaded guilty to three dangerous driving causing serious harm charges to Garda McCarthy in Creagh, Baltimore, Co Cork on April 8th, 2021. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of endangerment, impeding a garda in the course of her duty and to possession of cannabis for sale or supply.
Det Sgt Michael Lyons said that at 7pm on the date of the offence, detectives from the West Cork Divisional Drugs Squad were carrying out surveillance on a remote country road in Creagh, Baltimore, where they suspected a drugs transaction was taking place.
He told Judge Helen Boyle they observed a man carrying out a drugs transaction with Keohane. The other man went into woods nearby and was apprehended by gardaí.
Det Garda McCarthy approached the car driven by Keohane, identified herself and shouted “Gardaí Stop.” Det Sgt Lyons said as Keohane attempted to drive off, Det Garda McCarthy tried to take the keys out of the ignition.
“Martin Keohane disregarded Det Garda McCarthys’s direction and accelerated away at reckless speed in the direction of Skibbereen. He initially travelled to the opposite and incorrect side of the road where he avoided hitting a wall by swerving violently away from it at the last minute, while all the time Det Garda McCarthy was hanging from the driver’s door of the car.
“I watched as Det Garda McCarthy was dragged for approximately 80 feet as the car travelled in increasing speed until she was pushed by Martin Keohane from the moving vehicle. I observed Martin Keohane’s vehicle driving over Det Garda McCarthy’s ankle.”
Det Sgt Lyons said in his 30 years in the force he had never come across a more serious incident during which a garda “could have received fatal injuries”.
He added that after Keohane drove away from Det McCarthy, Det Garda Shannon Ryan was left with little choice but to jump back into a garda car to avoid being struck by Keohane at a hastily arranged checkpoint which had been set up further down the road.
“[Keohane] sped through the checkpoint with his vehicle half in the ditch and half on the road as he attempted to avoid the checkpoint.”
Keohane, who is a father of one, was arrested in the aftermath of the incident. He admitted his guilt and expressed remorse for his behaviour.
He subsequently offered €2,500 in compensation to the impacted garda which she declined. However, she has now asked that it be donated to Togher Family Resource Centre in Cork.
Defence barrister Tom Creed SC said his client was aware of the devastation he had caused the detective and had remorse for same. Keohane had a problem with alcohol as a younger man and then “migrated to cannabis.” He is seeking help for his issues surrounding cannabis use.
Det Sgt Lyons said that Keohane was not a “known dealer” and mainly supplied cannabis to his friends. He has not come to garda attention since the incident.
Keohane, who works at a ceilings company, apologised to Det Garda McCarthy. He said that he “deeply regretted the trauma” he had caused her.
Judge Boyle paid tribute to Det Garda McCarthy, whom she described as being a “pioneering detective”. She wished her well in her personal and professional life. Det Garda McCarthy has returned to her duties, the court heard.
In sentencing Keohane, Judge Boyle acknowledged the accused was genuinely remorseful for his actions, but said Keohane had driven off at speed “knowing that a member of An Garda Síochána was being dragged” along the road.
Judge Boyle said Keohane had caused “serious harm to a detective who was just doing her job on the day”.
“[Det Garda McCarthy] is a valued member of An Garda Síochána. She is entitled to come home safe and well from her job.”
She added it was “an entirely unnecessary event”, as Keohane had been “caught red-handed” buying drugs and should have faced up to the consequences of his actions.
“You say you panicked, but your behaviour has had ongoing negative consequences.”
Taking the plea into consideration and the lack of history of other serious offences, she jailed the father of one for four years, suspending the last year of the sentence. She also disqualified him from driving for four years.
Judge Boyle noted the steady work history of the defendant and the description of him as being a “good and trusted employee”. She also acknowledged he was addressing his cannabis issues and was keen to turn his life around having caused hurt to not only the garda but to his loved ones.