Gardaí believe Anthony Handley, aged 64, drifted off momentarily before his jeep veered from the road and hit the two near Balbriggan, Co Dublin. He had no alcohol or drugs in his system.
Judge Patrick McCartan refused a defence plea for a suspended sentence. He said Handley was a good man with a blameless record but that he should have been alert to the fact that he was becoming tired behind the wheel.
He said he was imposing the two-year sentence “to send out the clear message to the community that fatigue must be a phenomenon in the minds of all drivers”.
He also banned Handley from driving for 10 years.
The judge said the offence was “in no way in the same bracket as someone who had taken alcohol and drugs”, but that Handley’s tiredness was an aggravating factor.
He said society was only now starting to realise the dangers of driving while tired and noted the recent road safety campaign to that effect.
“I want to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to Ciarán Dunne [the deceased’s husband] and his extended family,” said Judge McCartan. “It is a monumental the loss suffered by his and her family. Nothing that this court can do today will even begin to address or put right this enormous tragedy.”
Handley, of Whitethorn Grove, Artane, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Olivia Dunne and serious bodily harm to Éabha Dunne in Balbriggan on January 17, 2014.
Olivia Dunne, aged 31, was killed instantly.
Éabha Dunne was thrown from her pram and landed underneath the jeep in her cot. The pram was completely destroyed. She had multiple broken bones and would have died if she did not receive medical attention, the court heard. She was in a coma afterwards and continues to suffer the effects of her injuries.
A victim impact report was read into court on behalf of Ms Dunne’s family which described them as “living with a nightmare”.
Ms Dunne’s husband of 18 months, Ciarán, said he was only alive today because Éabha survived.
“If there had been two coffins that day, it is guaranteed there would have been three,” the statement read.
Ms Dunne’s sister, Caroline Clinton, said Éabha had to be resuscitated by doctors and walks with a limp. She has had several operations and will require further surgery on her leg.
“She was expected not to survive, she beat the odds, she’s our little miracle,” Ms Clinton wrote.
She said Ciarán Dunne could not come to court yesterday because he never wanted to see the man who took away his wife.
“The anger and pain will always remain,” said Ms Clinton. “We will never come to terms with or forgive the devastating offence of Friday the 17th of January.”
Sgt Brian Kavanagh told Dominic McGinn, prosecuting, that Handley said he got four hours sleep the night before which was not unusual for him.
Handley wrote a letter of remorse shortly afterwards but the family did not want to receive it. He said he wished it was him who was killed that day instead of Ms Dunne.