Thursday 25 December 2014

Civil engineer who killed man while drunk driving wrong way down dual carriageway jailed for three years

Tim Healy

Published 01/05/2014 | 18:17

Ronan Cunningham

A CIVIL engineer who crashed and killed a man while drunkenly driving in the wrong direction down a dual carriageway has been sentenced to three years in prison by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The three judge court today  imposed the three year custodial term, along with a 15 year driving ban, on Ronan Cunningham (30) who admitted dangerous driving causing the death of Emanuel Mendez in a crash in October 2010.

Imposing the sentence, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman described  Cunningham's driving on the night of the collision as being "not just dangerous" but "hideous". 

The sentence replaces the five year suspended sentence Cunningham received which the CCA last year overturned for being too lenient.

In 2012 Cunningham from Enniskeen, Kingscourt Co Cavan pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Mendez (23)  on October 10, 2010, at Rathcoole, on the N7 Naas dual carriageway.

He also pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol on the same date. Judge Martin Nolan imposed a five year prison sentence, which was suspended, and banned him from driving for five years.

On the night Cunningham drank eight pints at a darts tournament, got behind the wheel and drove down the wrong side of the N7 Naas dual carriageway for seven kilometres before colliding with another car.

Cunningham had been attending the darts tournament at the Citywest Hotel on the night of the accident. He had booked a room in the hotel but decided to drive back to Cavan at 1am.

The DPP appealed against the sentence arguing it was unduly lenient. Last year, the three judge appeal court found the ‘extraordinary nature of the driving’ was ‘so alarming a feature of the case’ that they do not believe it was adequately taken into account by the sentencing judge.

Melanie Greally Bl for the DPP said the sentence was appealed because Mr Cunningham's driving on the night was "so extreme".

Paul Greene SC, for Mr Cunningham, said his client had this was remorseful for what happened. Counsel said Mr Cunningham became tearful any time he saw relatives of those killed in road traffic  accidents speak about their loved ones on road safety television adverts.

He had pleaded guilty at an early stage, and no longer drank nor drove. His client had these matters hanging over him for some time.  Compensation of €25,000 had been paid to the deceased's family.

An aunt of the deceased had previously let Judge Nolan know that while she forgave Mr Cunningham but held him wholly responsible for Mr Mendez's death.

In its ruling yesterday, the CCA imposed the three year prison sentence.

Mr Justice Hardiman said even when all the mitigating factors were taken into account a custodial sentence was merited.  Cunningham was given a week to get his affairs in order before  commencing the prison sentence.

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