A WARNING has been issued to those involved in sulky racing that they will be sent to prison if they are caught and brought before the courts.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly made his comments at Limerick Court during the case of a Garryowen man who was prosecuted for his role in a sulky race on the outskirts of the city last Christmas.
Ian Butler, aged 26, of Downey Street pleaded guilty to a number of road traffic offences including dangerous driving and driving without insurance on December 31, 2011.
Insp Paul Reidy, head of the divisional traffic corps, said the defendant was observed by gardai driving a van alongside a sulky race, involving two horses, at around 8.30am. Limerick Court was told a large number of vehicles had gathered for the sulky race which was staged on the main Limerick to Tipperary Road near the village of Boher.
“The vehicles were travelling in the direction of the city and had taken over both sides of the road,” said Insp Reidy who said other road users were forced to take evasive action in order to avoid a collision.
“The vehicles were driving ahead of the horses to assist the race,” he said adding that sulky racing is a common problem around Limerick.
The court was told it was also likely that the outcome of the race would have attracted “substantial bets” from those present on the morning.
When asked if others had been apprehended in relation to the incident, Insp Reidy said it can be difficult because most of those involved in sulky races “disperse quickly” when gardai moved in.
Judge O’Kelly said an “extreme arrogance” had been shown by those who “they think they can commandeer a public road for the purpose of a private race”.
The judge commented that there would have been a lot of people heading home for the New Year and he said they had been “put in extreme danger” by the actions of Butler and others who were present on the day.
“Sulky racing would not be possible if other motorists didn’t force legitimate road users off the road,” he said as he sentenced Butler to four month imprisonment.
However, following representations from solicitor John Devane and noting that other individuals involved in the incident had not been apprehended, the judge agreed to suspend the sentence for 10 months. The judge also disqualified Butler from driving for eight years.
After imposing sentence, the judge warned: “Anybody who comes before the court who has been involved in sulky racing can expect to go prison.”