Mother avoids jail for trying to run over daughter's attackers on footpath

The woman is a widow with three daughters and a son who had been going through “a difficult patch” at the time of the incident, the court heard.
Mother avoids jail for trying to run over daughter's attackers on footpath

A judge said the accused, Mary Lawrence, had taken “the law into her own hands” after being annoyed with the way gardaí had handled the incident involving her daughter. File picture: iStock

A mother of four who drove her car at speed on a footpath in an attempt to run down two teenage girls who had attacked her 14-year-old daughter has been given a three-year suspended jail sentence.

A judge said the accused, Mary Lawrence, had taken “the law into her own hands” after being annoyed with the way gardaí had handled the incident involving her daughter.

Lawrence (aged 38) of Ardagh Lodge, Prospect Woods, Longford, had pleaded guilty to a charge of endangerment in relation to the incident in which she drove her Volkswagen Passat onto the footpath at Harbour Street, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, on March 25, 2018.

A sitting of Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court today heard one of the two girls targeted by Lawrence had to jump over a garden wall to avoid being struck by the vehicle, while the other took cover behind a telephone pole.

Evidence was heard that before leaving the scene Lawrence got out of the car and shouted at her would-be victims: 

I’m going to kill you. You’re dead. I’ll go to jail for you.

Lawrence, who was living in Mullingar at the time, originally denied she was involved in the incident when she was arrested by gardaí three days later and only entered a guilty plea shortly before she was to face a jury trial earlier this year.

Garda Sheila Heaphy said Lawrence had subsequently claimed that her 14-year-old daughter had been attacked and bullied by the two girls at a fast-food restaurant in Mullingar two weeks prior to the incident.

The witness told the court that Lawrence had contacted gardaí about the attack on her daughter but was unhappy that the matter had been dealt with by a caution under the Garda juvenile diversion programme.

The court heard that Lawrence has also been charged with a public order offence arising out of an incident between her and members of the extended family of one of the girls at a discount store in October 2018 when the accused had possession of a knife.

Counsel for Lawrence, Gerard Groarke BL, said his client, a widow with three daughters and a son, had been going through “a difficult patch” at the time of the incident.

Pleading for leniency, Mr Groarke said Lawrence “deserves a chance” as she had turned her life around and was studying a course in office and business administration in Longford.

A probation report said the accused had a moderate risk of reoffending given her history of substance abuse and family history including a period where she and her children had been homeless for 17 months.

Mr Groarke said one of the girls who had attacked Lawrence’s daughter had approached her and apologised for what had happened.

In turn, Mr Groarke said Lawrence had also apologised for her actions.

The court heard Lawrence had 25 previous convictions including one for assault as well as a range of driving and public order offences.

The judge's ruling

Sentencing Lawrence to three years in jail, Judge Keenan Johnson said the two victims had feared for their safety.

Judge Johnson said it was fortunate that nobody had been injured during what he said was a premeditated, serious incident by the use of a car “in such an appalling way”.

“It is difficult to comprehend such a warped sense of righteousness,” the judge remarked.

However, he said he would suspend the sentence for a period of 10 years in light of Lawrence’s remorse, co-operation with gardaí and attempts to turn her life around on condition that she pay a bond of €500 to keep the peace for 10 years and submit herself to the supervision of the Probation Service for 18 months.

He also ordered her not to live in Mullingar and to stay out of the town apart from “absolutely essential” visits as well as to remain free of illicit drugs.

Judge Johnson also disqualified Lawrence from driving for 15 years adding: “She’s not a fit person to have a driving licence”.

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