A Lisnaskea man flew into a rage and hurled abuse at police after being prevented from driving down a road that had been closed to facilitate the Royal Black Institution’s annual demonstration.
James Gallagher (41) of Nutfield Road, Derryhurdin in Lisnaskea pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and disorderly behaviour but denied a third charge of failing to wear a seat belt.
The charges relate to an incident on 5th August last when the Royal Black Preceptory were holding their Annual Demonstration in Lisnaskea.
Police had set up traffic controls and closed off a number of routes with signposted diversions in place in order to facilitate the event.
Under questioning by the prosecution, a female police constable told the hearing that she was duty that day on the Lisnagole Road with a male colleague, directing traffic. One lane of the road was open to facilitate traffic leaving Lisnaskea heading towards Maguiresbridge and the police had activated the blue flashing lights on the patrol car to alert road users.
At 2.30pm, she observed a vehicle approaching her which was overtaken by a jeep being driven by Gallagher.
“The jeep proceeded towards me and I put up my right hand to signal for it to stop. It started to speed up and I was forced to jump to the left onto a grass verge. I had to shout out at the jeep to stop as it was going so quickly,” she said.
“It was within touching distance of me and I put my hand out and could touch the bonnet as it approached me. The driver looked highly angry and was obviously shouting and banging his fists on the steering wheel. He got out of the vehicle in pure rage. His face was red and screwed up and he started shouting obscenities at me. I asked him to calm down and had to call my colleague as I feared I might be punched. He continued with a barrage of abuse, calling me a black b****. I asked him to calm down and to get back into his vehicle to get him offside but all the time he was just swearing,” the policewoman added.
Another car approached leaving the parade, forcing the defendant to reverse slightly. Gallagher then leaned out the passenger side of his jeep and lifted his middle finger to the police and hurled more abuse at them before driving off at speed. The female officer had noted that Gallagher had not put his seatbelt back on when he returned to his vehicle.
In his evidence Gallagher said he had observed police letting two vehicles through ahead of him but that when he approached the police, he was stopped.
“I was only doing 5mph when I approached and the policewoman put her hand up and onto the bonnet. I didn’t overtake any other vehicles but it was my intention to drive on as other cars had been let through. I was annoyed and angry that I couldn’t get through but I didn’t drive at speed towards police. I did use obscenities and abuse towards her I’m sorry for that and know I shouldn’t have done it,” Gallagher said, adding that he had put his seatbelt on when he returned to his vehicle.
Defence barrister Stephen Fitzpatrick said his client was aware of the police presence that day and had stopped before coming into contact with the female constable, adding that there had been no skid marks on the road or screeching of brakes. The court was told that Gallagher had given a no comment interview to police.
Deputy District Judge Laura Ivers noted that signs had been put in place by police warning people about the parade. She said the constable had given fair and comprehensible evidence and she was satisfied that Gallagher had failed to stop. The judge added that Gallagher had been in “a fit of rage” and had not applied his seatbelt.
Convicting Gallagher, the judge ordered a pre-sentence report and adjourned the case until January 29th.
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