Belfast man who drove over officer while moving £18,000 in drugs cash is jailed for a year
A man who knocked over a police officer when he was transporting almost £20,000 of drugs money has been jailed for a year.
Ordering Brian Joseph Gallagher (50) to spend a further 18 months on licence after his release, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said that if the constable had received serious injury when he was thrown over the car bonnet, he would be looking at a starting point for his sentence of between seven and 10 years.
"You are a bit too close to the drugs scene and that is the reality of the matter," the Craigavon Crown Court judge told Gallagher. At an earlier hearing, Gallagher, from Broom Walk in Dunmurry, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, possessing £18,000 of criminal property and common assault of a police officer on February 19 this year.
He had originally been charged with trying to kill the officer he drove into but that was not proceeded with by the prosecution.
Prosecuting counsel Ian Tannahill told the court while it had been a "frightening and potentially dangerous incident", the PPS was not arguing that he intentionally drove at the officer with intent but instead that it was reckless.
He outlined that at 3.20pm on the Hillhall Road, police attempted to stop Gallagher who was driving a red Audi A4.
It headed off in the general direction of Lisburn and the Ballentine Village roundabout.
With the Audi caught in slow moving traffic, an officer got out and shouted "stop, armed police" through an open window but Gallagher manoeuvred his vehicle around the police car and drove at the constable who was struck and went to the ground over the bonnet, said the lawyer.
Gallagher drove off at speed on the wrong side of the road and mounted a footpath and a second police vehicle attempted to pull alongside but the Audi pulled into this vehicle.
It then travelled on the wrong side of the roundabout and police were unable to pursue it.
A short time later, the vehicle was spotted at McDonald's in Kennedy Way and Gallagher was found in the toilets, stood at the urinal with a grey holdall on the floor at his feet.
Mr Tannahill said when he was arrested, Gallagher's response was: "There is no need to ram me. There's 18,000 in there. I won on a bet."
Meanwhile the constable who was struck by the car was taken to hospital where he was treated for injuries to his forearm and right knee, bruising and tenderness and friction burn.
"It was a frightening and potentially dangerous incident," said Mr Tannahill who revealed that Gallagher's criminal record "showed a history of involvement with drugs".
The lawyer said Gallagher was on licence at the time of the incident having received a sentence for the importation of a controlled drug when two kilograms of cocaine were brought up from the Republic.
"He had been going quite well on licence until he foolishly lent himself to this operation," said his defence barrister, who revealed Gallagher had difficulties with drugs from a young age and had been shot by paramilitaries.
Gallagher was also handed a two-year driving ban.