A father of one who alerted the gardaí to the fact that he had been responsible for a hit-and-run crash the previous night has been jailed for 20 months.
Anthony Corcoran (39) spoke to gardaí the morning after he knocked down Peter Maunde, after Corocran's father called his local gardaí in Co Cavan to inform them that his son had been involved in a car accident the previous day.
Mr Maunde was pronounced dead at the scene by medics after his body had initially been mistaken for an animal by passing motorists.
Corcoran, of Lyons Street, Newcastle, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to failure to remain at the scene with intent to escape civil or criminal liability at the Naas Road, Dublin on January 31, 2016. He has no previous convictions.
A charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Maunde was dropped by the State.
Passing sentence today, Judge Martin Nolan said he could infer from the evidence that the defendant was over the limit. He said the only explanation available to the court as to why he did not stop was that he panicked.
Judge Nolan said he made a grave misjudgment travelling by car and compounded it by not remaining at the scene. He said he must infer that the accused knew a serious collision took place and that a human being was involved.
He said there was excellent mitigation in the case, including an early guilty plea, his contacting gardaí, his lack of a criminal record, his good work history and his being a family man. He said there was no question that he was driving dangerously and the collision was unavoidable.
Judge Nolan said this is a good man with a conscience, but unfortunately on this particular night his conscience escaped him and he left the scene.
He sentenced Corcoran to 20 months imprisonment and disqualified him from driving for three years.
At an earlier sentencing hearing, the court heard that many motorists later told gardaí that they had spotted a black male dressed all in black walking on the motorway that night. Others reported seeing what they presumed was an animal lying in the middle of the outside lane on the carriageway.
One driver lost control of his vehicle after driving over Mr Maunde's body. He stopped his car and contacted the emergency service when he returned to the scene to discover it was actually a person.
He said “the body was in a very bad condition and he assumed the person had died”.
A victim impact report from Mr Maunde's family was handed into court but not read out.
Garda Brendan O'Brien told Dean Kelly BL, prosecuting, that Mr Maunde and his girlfriend had been out socialising with friends in Dublin city centre before they returned to the hotel they were staying in, the Ibis Hotel, off the Red Cow Roundabout.
They had a small argument, which counsel said was possibly about Mr Maunde's drinking, before the woman went to the bathroom.
When she returned, she couldn't find Mr Maunde and went looking for him. She tried calling him but his phone was out of charge and she was unable to make contact with him.
Corcoran told gardaí in subsequent interview that his fiancee, his friend and his fiancee's friend had been out socialising that night and drinking, outlining that he had two beers and four whiskeys.
He said he had “a domestic disagreement” with his fiancee after they all returned home together and she told both men to leave her home. He and his friend drove back to Kingscourt, in Cavan separately.
He said his friend, who was driving ahead of him, rang him en route to say that he had just seen a man crossing the barrier on the motorway.
Corcoran said it was after the phone call that he hit something and although he didn't know what it was, he definitely did not think it was a person. He and his friend later stopped their cars in Navan and examined the damage to the front of his car.
Gda O'Brien agreed with Bernard Condon SC, defending, that one witness told gardaí a motorist would not expect to see a person walking on that part of the motorway.
He accepted that the weather conditions were terrible, it was very dark and Mr Maunde was wearing dark clothing.
Gda O Brien further accepted that Corcoran expressed remorse during his later garda interview. He agreed that he has not been in trouble with gardaí since the accident.
Judge Nolan asked Mr Condon if his client had a “motivation to leave the scene because of his intake of alcohol”.
Counsel accepted that this was “a factor in the case” but submitted that his client didn't minimise this in his statement to gardaí the day after the accident. “He did himself a lot of damage in that statement,” Mr Condon submitted.
Gda O' Brien told Mr Kelly that a number of eye witnesses told gardaí that they had encountered a man, dressed all in black, crossing the motorway in the vicinity of the Red Cow Roundabout.
One man said he saw a male walking casually and while the man was seemingly paying attention to traffic travelling towards him, he was not looking at traffic behind him. This motorist said he saw the man climbing the barrier in the median and he was concerned for his safety.
A taxi driver was heading towards Clondalkin on the N7 when he saw what he presumed was an animal lying on the ground in the outside lane. Another motorist also mistook Mr Maunde for an animal.
Another motorist who became aware that it was a person on the road, pulled over his vehicle in front of Mr Maunde in attempt to protect the body and prevent any other person hitting him.
Mr Condon told Judge Nolan that his client's voluntary statement to gardaí was “materially damaging to him” in terms of how open and honest he was.
“He made an appalling error of judgment but as soon as he can he alerts the gardaí,” Mr Condon said before he submitted that his client's admissions were of “huge assistance” to the investigation.
Mr Condon handed in a large number of testimonials from Corcoran's wife and family, and members of his local community, outlining his regret for his actions and suggesting that the crime was “out of character”.
“He panicked after he hit him. Everything that led up to this stage of his life never suggested that he could be a person that would do something like that,” Mr Condon submitted.