Young driver 'panicked' when he collided with cyclist and drove off

Young driver 'panicked' when he collided with cyclist and drove off

The sentencing of an inexperienced driver whose failure to properly observe oncoming traffic led to a collision with a cyclist has been adjourned to allow him gather funds.

Melvin Rattigan, who was 18 years old at the time, did not have a full driving licence or insurance for the vehicle he was driving and left the scene after the collision.

Rattigan, now aged 20, told gardaí he “panicked” when he hit the cyclist and drove off. He said that he had not heard or seen a taxi driver who followed him and indicated he should return to the scene.

The cyclist, Ms Laura Briggs, who had been cycling home from work at lunch time, was left with serious injuries including a hairline fracture to her skull. She said in her victim impact statement that she has ongoing effects from her injuries and suffers from depression.

Rattigan, of Saint Mary's Park, Dunsink Lane, Finglas, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Ms Briggs at Lower Dominick Street, Dublin on May 13, 2015. He has no previous convictions.

Judge Karen O'Connor had originally heard evidence in the case last month and adjourned it to June for finalisation.

Today defence counsel, Anne Marie Lawlor, said Rattigan had €1,200 in court but asked the court for further time to allow him gather a total of €3,000. She said there was a positive probation report before the court and Rattigan had not come to any garda attention.

Ms Briggs indicated that she was willing to accept the money on the basis it was donated to charity.

Judge O'Connor adjourned finalisation of sentence until November 1.

At the original sentence hearing Garda Niall McCormack agreed with Ms Lawlor, that at the time of the accident both parties had a green light but Ms Briggs had the right of way as Rattigan was attempting to make a right turn from Dorset Street onto Dominic Street.

He agreed that Rattigan took the turn on the green light not observing that there was a cyclist in oncoming traffic.

Rattigan told gardaí that he thought Ms Briggs had got back up and was OK after the collision. He said he had “absolutely panicked” and driven off. He said he did not hear a taxi driver who had followed him to tell him to go back to the scene.

Ms Lawlor said Rattigan felt huge regret and was shocked that Ms Briggs had been injured in the way she was. She said Rattigan had been an inexperienced driver who did not observe oncoming traffic as he should have.

She asked the court to take into account the serious effects the offence had had on the victim but to have regard to this young man and leave him in the community.

Judge O'Connor said the offence has had a serious effect on a woman who had been going about her business in the early afternoon. She noted Rattigan had entered an early guilty plea.

Background to the case

Gda McCormack told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that Ms Briggs had been cycling home from work at lunchtime along Dorset Street towards the city when she was hit by a green Peugeot car driven by Rattigan, who was turning right at a junction onto Lower Dominick Street.

A taxi driver had observed the cyclist prior to the accident and had tried to alert Rattigan by beeping at him. After the collision he saw the Peugeot stop for a number of seconds before driving off.

He said he followed the car and managed to pull up along side the passenger side to indicate that they should return to the scene before losing the car when it swerved across two lanes of traffic.

Witnesses at the scene said Ms Briggs was lying sideways on the road after being knocked from the bike. She was not moving but began making sounds and regained consciousness before being taken to hospital.

Gda McCormack said CCTV of the incident showed the car make a sudden turn to the right and collide with the cyclist.

In her victim impact statement Ms Briggs said that Rattigan had not stopped or followed up after the collision but instead had to be caught. She said being physically hurt had damaged her mental welfare and has had an impact on her personal and work life.

Gda McCormack said Rattigan came voluntarily to Store Street garda station after he made contact with him and accepted he had been driving the car. He said he had panicked at the scene and left.

He agreed it was his view that Rattigan, who did not have a full driving licence and did not have insurance on the vehicle, was an inexperienced driver at the time.

Gda McCormack agreed with Ms Lawlor that Rattigan had seemed genuinely shocked and surprised on becoming aware of the extent of the injuries.

Ms Lawlor said Rattigan had been fully forthcoming in interview and told gardaí that he believed he saw the woman get up and had left the scene when he “panicked”. He said he simply did not see or hear the taxi driver who pursued him.

Counsel said his wife had been four months pregnant at the time and experiencing difficulties. She was now pregnant with their second child and also having difficulties. She said he was a man of limited means who was not working presently.

Ms Lawlor handed letters from Rattigan and his wife in to court.

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