The Court of Appeal has upheld a four-year sentence for an unlicensed teenage driver who knowingly sped off after hitting a toddler, leaving him "bleeding and lifeless" on the road. The court heard the boy now has a life-long brain injury.
The court did reduce a further sentence for a violent disorder conviction against the Cork youth from 12 months to six months and banned him from driving for 15 years rather than the 20 imposed by the sentencing judge.
The sentencing court previously heard that the uninsured and unlicensed driver was 17 when he bought a car for €100 the day before committing the crime. He had three passengers on board when he sped through a series of tight turns in a residential area before hitting the toddler on March 25, 2019.
The court heard that the child was thrown into the air and the teenager knew that he had hit him, but sped off.
The boy’s mother came out of her house to discover her son lying "bleeding and lifeless" on the road. She delivered a victim impact statement to the sentence hearing, describing her "little boy’s life hanging by a thread" as they waited for the ambulance.
The toddler suffered a seizure and spent eight days in an induced coma and on a ventilator, and another 12 days in intensive care in Temple St Children’s Hospital.
He had suffered a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder blade, a fractured hip, a collapsed left lung, a bleed on the brain and a serious brain injury. He was unable to walk, talk, use his hands or even hold up his head and had to be fed through a tube.
His permanent traumatic brain injury meant that by the time of the hearing, he still struggled with his speech, his processing was slower and he had sensory issues.
The accused pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm, driving a dangerously defective vehicle, failing to stop, failing to keep his vehicle at the scene of an incident, failing to report the incident to gardaí and driving without insurance or a licence.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain said that to leave the scene of the accident almost bordered on inhumane.
The defendant was sentenced to six years' detention with the final two years suspended and banned from driving for 20 years.
The teenager's lawyers had argued to the appeal court that the sentencing judge failed to give adequate consideration to mitigating factors and should have suspended a greater portion of the sentence.
The Court of Appeal disagreed and upheld the sentence.
The youth was on bail at the time he hit the toddler, having been found guilty of violent disorder for being part of a group of youths that chased and harassed a man at a filling station in March 2017.
He was sentenced to 12 months for that offence with the judge taking into account that he had failed to provide compensation to the victim and committed a further offence while on bail.
However, the appeal court found that sentence was "excessive" and reduced it to six months. The sentences will run consecutively as is required when an offence is committed while on bail.