Ciaran Lane, aged 25, of Ashington Avenue, Cabra, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of 23-month-old Vanessa Siatka at Ratra Triangle, Phoenix Park, on April 6, 2015.
In a victim impact report, the child’s mother, Katarzyna, said she could only watch as her “baby was taken away” from her.
“For me, that was the moment time and my heart stopped,” she said. “The moment the car hit Vanessa it not only swept her away physically, it also took her away from us.
“All I could do was run to my baby. I spoke to her; I told her I loved her and everything would be OK, Daddy was on the way.
“I prayed for her but as she lay on the road a small tear came from her eye and I knew in my heart that this was her last ‘goodbye Mammy’.”
Lane failed to stop after hitting the child. The car took her along the road for a few metres and she tumbled along the road before coming out from under the car.
Half an hour later, Lane arrived at a Cabra garda station and told he had been involved in the accident.
He told gardaí he was driving at 80kph and the speed limit at the location was 50kph.
Judge Patrick McCartan told the court this was “a terrible tragedy” with the “horrible loss of a young life”.
He said this tragedy was “entirely avoidable” and extended his “deepest condolences” to Vanessa’s family.
“Her family and friends come here today in search of some justice for what has occurred,” he said.
“It is probably the most difficult case that a judge has to deal with and this court is regretfully no stranger to these kind of cases.”
Judge McCartan said there was nothing the court could do to address the injustice that had been created or help rebalance matters.
“My hands are tied by precedent and a higher sense of justice in that only in very exceptional cases should a maximum case be imposed,” he said.
“This case is not far from that position as it happens.”
Judge McCartan said the Phoenix Park is used every day of the year by the citizens of Dublin, with its many attractions for young children and their families.
“Easter Monday, April 6, 2015 was a particular busy day, it was a very pleasant and warm day,” he said.
“Anyone who used the park, including the accused, would know there would be children about.
“The evidence has established that the accused was in no position to consider the safety of others.”
The judge said Lane drove his motor car in the “most erratic way” and what occurred in the Phoenix Park “was inevitable but entirely avoidable”.
Judge McCartan said Mr Lane was well over the limit and was using “a highly stimulant drug, cocaine”.
He said Vanessa had had no chance and this was as bad “a dangerous driving case” as he had ever encountered. “He was a father of a child of the same age and knows the value of life in that respect,” he said.
He said the only mitigating factor was that Vanessa had been on the road.
He banned Lane from driving for 20 years.