Suspended sentence over motorcyclist’s death

A 41-year-old motorcycle enthusiast who was innocently enjoying a Saturday afternoon spin died when a car emerged onto the main road and left him with no chance to avoid it.

Yesterday, Judge Seán Ó Donnbháin imposed a one-year suspended jail sentence and a four-year driving disqualification on the driver, a woman based in the UK, who comes to Fermoy regularly to visit her parents.

Jennifer Connery, of Whitton Park, Hounslow, London, appeared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court where she previously pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention, causing the death of TJ Sweetnam at Ballinrush, Kilworth, on August 22, 2015.

“This woman pulled out in front of him and gave him no chance,” the judge said.

“He was an entirely innocent user of the road, out enjoying a cycle on his motorbike and she did not see the oncoming motorcycle even though he had his main light on.

“There was no evidence of speed and no other aggravating factors — no excessive speed and no defective vehicle. It was at the higher end of carelessness.

“I accept this lady has suffered her own torments. She feels very guilty. She co-operated fully with the guards.”

The late Mr Sweetnam, a mechanic and motorcycle enthusiast from Ballinrush, Kilworth, was close to his home when he was fatally injured.

Sergeant John McNamara said the deceased died instantly.

Representing the family of the late Mr Sweetnam, Michael Smiddy said that life had stopped and their hearts had shattered that Saturday afternoon when another link in the family chain was taken from them forever, and the world had lost a true gentleman.

It was also acknowledged by the Sweetnam family that the life of Ms Connery and her family had also changed as a result of one moment of carelessness, which had caused all of the terrible consequences.

The Sweetnam family wanted everyone who took control of a vehicle to know that they had responsibility for their own lives and the lives of others as the consequences of something going wrong would be felt forever.

Imelda Kelly, prosecuting, informed Judge Ó Donnabháin that the mother of the deceased met with Ms Connery before the sentencing hearing and the Sweetnam family did not want to see her jailed.

The judge said of the Sweetnam family: “Even in their own grief, in an extremely Christian and humane way, they have reached out and understood her position. Not everyone could do that.”

Brian Leahy, defending, said the defendant frequently returned from London to Fermoy to visit her aging parents. He said she felt sorrow every day since for her lapse of concentration on that day.

The disqualification from driving will come into effect on May 14.


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