Jail for Newbridge man with over 170 convictions who led gardaí on high-speed chase

Thomas Stokes sentenced before Circuit Criminal Court today

Isabel Hayes

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Isabel Hayes

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Jail for Newbridge man who led gardaí on high-speed chase

A man who brought gardaí on a high speed cross-city chase before causing the garda car to crash into a wall has been jailed for five years.

Garda Thomas Bialkowski suffered severe eye and facial injuries after the butt of his firearm hit him in the face after his garda car crashed in Tallaght in the early hours of December 29, 2018.

Thomas Stokes (30), the driver of the car, was caught a short time later after trying to flee the scene. He has 171 previous convictions, including 88 for road traffic offences.

Stokes, with an address at Anne Street, Newbridge, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of endangerment, one count of assaulting Gda Bialkowski and one count of dangerous driving at Promenade Road, Dublin Port and Cookstown Way, Tallaght.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage in relation to a separate incident at Limekiln Green, Crumlin six years ago, on October 10, 2014.

Passing sentence today, Wednesday, May 27, Judge Karen O'Connor said that while a consecutive sentence is not mandatory, her view was that it was appropriate in this case.

Judge O'Connor sentenced Stokes to four-and-a-half years imprisonment for the offence of endangerment. She also sentenced him to two-and-a-half years imprisonment for the earlier offence of criminal damage.

She ordered that the sentences run consecutive to each other for an effective term of imprisonment of seven years. She then suspended the final two years of the sentence on strict conditions.

At an earlier sentencing hearing, Sergeant Wes Kenny told the court that members of the garda armed support unit approached a car parked at Dublin Port containing Stokes and an unknown man.

When Stokes saw the gardaí approaching, he tried to start the car. One garda stuck his hand in the window to try and stop Stokes from driving off and was dragged along for a short time before letting go.

A high speed pursuit ensued, with Stokes making for the Port Tunnel. Due to safety protocol, gardaí were unable to pursue the car in the tunnel, but instead followed at a safe distance, the court heard.

Once on the M50, the pursuit started again, with Stokes reaching speeds of up to 180km/h, Sgt Kenny said. The car also drove in the hard shoulder at times and “swerved aggressively” across all lanes of the motorway. At times, gardaí could see items being discarded from the car window.

The pursuit came to a head at Cookstown Way, Tallaght, when Stokes braked hard and crashed, causing the garda car to swerve and crash into a wall.

The garda car airbag caused Gda Bialkowski's firearm butt to hit him in the mouth, causing injuries to his teeth. His eye was also injured in the crash and he suffered soft tissue damage to his arm and shoulder, the court heard.

Stokes was arrested nearby. He has been in custody ever since, save for a short period of compassionate bail in March this year.