A drink driver had to get a jail sentence for dangerous driving that seriously injured a woman who was a passenger in the car, the judge said yesterday as evidence was given of the driver ignoring appeals from passengers to slow down.
Ciaran Fitzpatrick, of Lehenamore, Togher, Cork, was sentenced to four years, with the last three years suspended, at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. The sentence was backdated to July as Fitzpatrick had been in custody since then.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “This matter deserves a substantial custodial sentence. It is at the higher end of offences of this type.”
The judge was alarmed by the number of aggravating factors in the case.
“The driving was dangerous, he failed to respond to requests from within the car to slow down, he was drinking, he was speeding, he had no insurance,” he said. “He was doing all the things that make young people dangerous on the road.”
Fitzpatrick, aged 21, pleaded guilty to charges that on August 10, 2016, at Well Rd, he drove dangerously causing serious bodily harm to Niamh Bruton, and he had no insurance or licence. There was not a separate charge of drink driving but this was referred to in evidence and remarked upon by the judge.
Garda Orla Leahy said the Ford Mondeo crashed on the Well Road after 3am. Garda Leahy found Ms Bruton on the footpath and the defendant talking to her but she was unresponsive. At first he said they had been struck by a taxi that sped off. Gardaí found he had the key of the crashed car in his pocket. It was only afterwards that he admitted the driving.
Elizabeth O’Connell, SC, said that, after this initial denial, he was totally co-operative with the garda investigation and had no previous convictions. Noting the injured party’s upset that the accused had not apologised to her, Ms O’Connell said the defendant had been advised in hospital after the crash not to approach her.
Ms O’Connell said: “The victim herself says to the court that Mr Fitzpatrick has grasped [the seriousness of it and his responsibility] and he has suffered. Her view is not determinative but it should have some weight. And society can and does recognise mercy.”
Ms Bruton said in her victim impact statement: “As a result of this accident I spent nearly four months in CUH and Tallaght hospital and almost two weeks in intensive care for life threatening injuries such as a shattered pelvis, severe liver laceration, broken neck and smashed jaw. That is among many of the injuries I sustained during the accident and I am still on strong medication to date to manage my pain.
“Because of this crash I have essentially lost a year of my life as I was unable to return to college. I missed my Grandad’s funeral. As a 21-year-old girl, I am unable to do many of the activities a girl of my age should be able to do because of this traumatic event.”
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