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22 May 2022

Multiple jail terms for Thurles jockey for high speed driving

'I was shaking uncontrollably,' says Garda involved in near collision

Multiple jail terms for Thurles jockey for  high speed driving

Thurles District Court

A Thurles jockey who drove at high speed through back roads near the town, clipping a garda’s wing mirror, was given multiple jail sentences at Thurles District Court and told that his behaviour was “totally and utterly unacceptable” by the judge.


Liam Quinlan, of 27 Caislean Court, Thurles, was charged with dangerous driving at Drom village; dangerous driving and having no insurance at Dovea Lower, Bouladuff, Thurles; and with dangerous driving at Goldings Cross, Barnane, Templemore, all on the same date of February 16, 2021.


Mr Quinlan was also charged with dangerous driving and having no insurance at Seskin, Thurles, on December 21, 2020, and dangerous driving on the same date at The Heath, Thurles.


Garda Christopher Verling told Judge Elizabeth MacGrath that he was off duty on December 21, 2020, when he was travelling down a country laneway at Seskin.


The road was only wide enough for one car and there was grass in the middle of the road. He came to a junction at The Heath in his own private car. As he approached the triangle in the road, a blue Opal Astra came across him without stopping at high speed and the driver performed a “handbrake turn manoeuvre into my path.”


Garda Verling said he immediately recognised Liam Quinlan. Garda Verling had to take immediate evasive action to pull out of the way, and pulled into a house where he made a 999 call. This was at 9.20am.


“I was shaking uncontrollably. Two people came to my help,” Garda Verling told Judge Elizabeth MacGrath. A short distance away, Garda Verling encountered the same Opal Astra, and pulled into a gateway. The other driver reversed towards him. “I stayed where I was,” said Garda Verling. “I was in fear I was going to be hit.” He rang Thurles Garda Station to say he had seen the driver again. Nine minutes had passed since the first incident.


On a separate occasion, a second garda said he received a call regarding the blue Astra. He encountered this car on a small country road. The Astra “mounted the ditch” and passed by his driver’s side. The car passed so close “it clipped my wing mirror”. There was “not a yard” between “myself and the driver,” said the garda, who identified Liam Quinlan.


Mr Quinlan failed to stop at a T-Junction, went to Drom Village at “excessive speed” and at this stage, two pedestrians “had to get out of the way of the car to prevent being struck.”
Mr Quinlan drove at speed through the village and drove through another crossroads. He went through numerous stop signs and failed to stop at junctions.


Mr Quinlan was disqualified from driving at the time.


Solicitor Colin Morrissey said Mr Quinlan accepts this was at the “high end” of dangerous driving, and the Court must consider a custodial sentence. Mr Quinlan is in full time employment as a jockey and has a 3-month old son. Mr Quinlan is regularly tested for drugs and attends treatment. “He was going through traumatic events at the time,” said Mr Morrissey. “He was in the throes of addiction. He apologies to gardaí for the recklessness of his behaviour.” 


Mr Quinlan has 18 previous convictions, including for dangerous driving, drugs, and breaching covid restrictions. “This does appear to be the first time in his life he appears to be on track,” said Mr Morrissey.

Judge MacGrath said she had to balance Mr Quinlan's record against the public interest. Judge MacGrath imposed two four-month terms of imprisonment on Mr Quinlan for the incidents at Seskin and The Heath, and banned him from driving for six years on each charge.


Mr Quinlan was further sentenced to four terms of four months’ prison each, for no insurance and dangerous driving charges on February 16, 2021, and disqualified from driving for six years on each charge.

Mr Quinlan was remanded in custody to appear before another sitting of Thurles District Court as he was the subject of a suspended prison sentence at the time of the offences.


Judge MacGrath said she had given Mr Quinlan opportunities, but he did not take them. Mr Quinlan’s manner of driving and the risk to Garda Verling, was “totally and utterly unacceptable”. “You’re very fortunate you did not kill or injure anyone, including yourself,” the Judge told Mr Quinlan.

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