Five police officers injured in citywide Belfast car chase

Court
Court

Five police officers were injured as a disqualified driver was pursued at speed across Belfast in broad daylight, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors also claimed banned motorist James Maughan, 35, nearly collided with a pensioner, a school bus and a woman pushing a pram as he mounted pavements in a bid to escape.

Maughan, who has more than 100 previous road traffic offences, has admitted all charges linked to the incident on March 14, a judge was told.

The accused, of Lower English Street in Armagh, faces counts of dangerous driving, having no insurance, driving while disqualified, failing to stop for police, failing to remain at the scene of an accident and failing to report an accident causing injury.

Refusing bail due to the risk of reoffending, Mr Justice Colton described his alleged actions as “appalling”.

The court heard how the driver of a Volkswagen Passat mounted a kerb and sped off as police signalled for him to stop on the Shankill Road at around 1pm.

Pursued by members of the PSNI’a auto-crime team, the motorist allegedly continued on to Lanark Way and mounted a pavement.

Conor Gillespie, prosecuting, said: “He nearly hit an elderly lady walking on the footpath and nearly stuck a school bus before overtaking a queue of traffic.”

Travelling at around 60mph on the wrong side of the road, the car narrowly missed a van before hitting an unmarked police vehicle and injuring two officers on Servia Street, according to Mr Gillespie.

After that the Volkswagen headed onto the Westlink, weaving in and out of traffic before exiting at Clifton Street and turning on to North Queen Street.

It was claimed that the driver repeatedly tried to cause a collision with pursuing police.

“A female pushing a pram across the road was narrowly missed,” Mr Gillespie added.

The chase continued up Duncairn Gardens, along the Cavehill Road and through residential streets before the car struck a static Land Rover at high speed, the court heard.

Three officers inside sustained whiplash injuries.

Maughan allegedly tried to run off but was caught and arrested at the scene.

During interviews he admitted being a disqualified driver and all the other offences, the judge was told.

It was revealed in court that he has a record of 198 previous offences, 110 for road traffic crimes.

Defence counsel Dennis Boyd said Maughan acted in “blind panic” after deciding to drive his girlfriend into town to buy a tracksuit.

“He called at the Shankill Road on the way back to buy cigarettes, police waved him down and because he was terrorised at the thought of going back to prison he drove off,” the barrister contended.

Arguing that the circumstances may have been exaggerated, Mr Boyd stressed that his client was not a violent man, but someone who always co-operated with police.

Refusing bail, however, Mr Justice Colton said: “The applicant’s driving on this occasion was appalling on any view.”