'Only get in cars with people you trust': Family's plea as man, 45, sentenced to 14 years for fatal crash

The 45 year old driver of a car in which back seat passenger Jillian Thornton was killed in May 2016 has been sentenced to fifteen years in jail with one year suspended.

'Only get in cars with people you trust': Family's plea as man, 45, sentenced to 14 years for fatal crash

The 45 year old driver of a car in which back seat passenger Jillian Thornton was killed in May 2016 has been sentenced to fifteen years in jail with one year suspended.

After being sentenced at Trim Circuit Court yesterday Michael Collins, from St Finians Park in Drogheda, Co Louth apologised to the Thornton family but still insisted that while he was foolish to initiate a Garda chase that he wouldn't have crashed only a Garda car pursuing him hit him and caused the accident.

Handing down sentence, Judge Baxter said 'This trial was difficult and often trying'.

She described the Thornton's family loss as "immeasurable", a loss she said that will never go away.

Telling Collins his driving was dangerous and that he had a particular delusion throughout the trial about what happened and avoided responsibility.

"He had no regard for safety, life or limb and he had a misguided belief that gardaí were to blame for the crash, and this was nonsense in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The judge said said Collins' behaviour throughout the trial "did him no favours".

Michael Collins who was today jailed for 14 years at Trim Circuit Court. Picture Ciara Wilkinson
Michael Collins who was today jailed for 14 years at Trim Circuit Court. Picture Ciara Wilkinson

She said all witnesses, civilian and garda, should be commended for their composure and dignity throughout the trial, which at times was challenging.

Throughout the sentencing hearing the Thornton family remained seated impassively although at one point they were seen to shed tears and when sentencing was completed there were emotional scenes inside the court as they hugged each other.

Last year Collins trial heard how the fatal crash followed a 25 minute pursuit through Drogheda and east Meath, that began when the dark coloured Mitsubishi Colt he was driving failed to stop for gardaí after driving the wrong way on a roundabout.

The late Jillian Thornton: Picture: Facebook
The late Jillian Thornton: Picture: Facebook

Gardaí involved in following the car told the trial that Collins had driven through a number of red lights, travelled at high speed on the wrong side of the road without lights, almost collided with other vehicles and forced a number of garda cars onto the hard shoulder.

Just before half ten that night, the Colt collided with a Volkswagen Passat and crashed.

The trial heard Collins had cannabis in his system on the night of the fatal crash.

Jillian Thornton’s family pictured outside Trim Circuit Court in March. From left are Jillian’s sister Elaine, dad Derek, mum Lorraine and brother Derrick. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson
Jillian Thornton’s family pictured outside Trim Circuit Court in March. From left are Jillian’s sister Elaine, dad Derek, mum Lorraine and brother Derrick. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson

It also heard recordings of 999 calls from the passengers in the car claiming the driver was going to crash unless gardaí called off the pursuit. One of the calls made shortly before crash ended in a scream.

TheThornton family today appealed to people to think twice about getting into a car with someone they do not know.

"Trust whoever you are getting into a car with, above all make sure you know the driver. We are hoping that by telling Jillian's story it will save at least one life and save one family from going through the hell that we're going through."

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