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Man (26) described as 'a threat to society' jailed for driving stolen tractor into side of house

A trial heard that driving a tractor in west Clare at 5am was akin to announcing on Clare FM that ‘I’m up to no good’.
Feb 26th 2020, 8:02 PM 36,746 21

A JUDGE HAS jailed a west Clare man for two years concerning a series of offences involving “a runaway tractor”.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys imposed a three-year prison term suspending the final year on Jonathan O’Brien (26) for the unlawful use of the now 40 year-old Massey Ferguson tractor on 21 July 2018.

O’Brien of St Patrick’s Terrace, Kilrush also pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving of the tractor on the night and criminal damage charge.

The judge described the accused – who has 57 previous convictions – as “a threat to society” and also imposed a six-year driving ban.

According to Garda Brion Dolan, O’Brien appeared drunk on the night when he was eventually arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

However, O’Brien avoided a drink driving charge after the garda blood sample sent off for analysis clotted.

His counsel, Brian Mc Inerney BL commented that the blood clotting may have arisen “from the cocktail of substances he had in his system”.

O’Brien stole the tractor from the farmyard of Sean Culligan at Killimer in the early hours of 21 July 2018.

The Kilrush man admitted to gardaí that he didn’t know how to drive a tractor but he did drive it for 12 miles before crashing it into the wall of a house in Kilrush housing estate.

Flaunting traffic laws

According to garda evidence, a local man, Tom Murphy, kept in pursuit of the tractor and was updating gardaí on its progress.

The garda said that the tractor was driving over continuous white lines and driving through yield signs and flaunting road traffic laws.

He also said that the tractor crashed into a wall at Upper Cappa Drive in Kilrush town at around 5.30am and continued on its journey.

The garda said that the tractor was coming towards him with agricultural forks at the front.

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He said that the tractor continued on to a farm-yard, where O’Brien appeared not to be able to stop the tractor and the garda was able to arrest him.

Counsel for O’Brien, Brian McInerney BL told the court: “Even for the hard-working farming community in west Clare, the presence of a Massey Ferguson tractor at 5am in the morning on the roads would be unusual.”

He added: “Even more unusual – but not unique – would be the sight of a Massey Ferguson tractor in a housing estate at that hour of the morning.

“This was an old Massey Ferguson – they keep going forever but they get louder and louder the older they get.”

Counsel said that driving around on a Massey Ferguson tractor around west Clare at five o’clock in the morning “was tantamount to putting an ad on Clare FM that ‘I’m up to no good’ or a sign on the roof of the tractor. It was going to get attention”.

The garda said that he “would be very concerned what Jonathan O’Brien would be capable of while intoxicated”.

He added: “When not intoxicated, he is easy to deal and you could have the bit of craic with him.”

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Gordon Deegan

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