Wednesday 18 October 2017

Driver who killed three must wait on prison return decision

Roisin Connolly Roisin (39) and her unborn daughter, named Catherine, were killed in the accident
Roisin Connolly Roisin (39) and her unborn daughter, named Catherine, were killed in the accident

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

A man who killed three people and an unborn baby whilst driving a car with almost three times the legal amount of alcohol in his blood must wait another two months to find out if he is going back to jail.

Earlier today the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) agreed with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that a four year jail term handed down to a man convicted of dangerous driving causing the deaths of three people and an unborn baby was unduly lenient.

The DPP brought the appeal against the sentence handed down to Monaghan man Kevin McArdle who was more than three times over the drink driving limit at the time of the fatal collision in December 2010.

The CCA, led by Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, said that it agreed there had been an error in principle and that the sentence was unduly lenient.

This afternoon Judge O'Donnell said that the circumstances surrounding the case were "truly tragic and horrific" and one that was undoubtedly at the higher end of the scale of the offence of dangerous driving causing death.

Mr McArdle, who attended the Criminal Courts of Justice today with members of his family, has already served his original custodial sentence and has been released from prison.

His case will come back before the CCA in two months when the court will decide if he should be sent back to jail.

At that stage, the court will consider probation reports and proposals by Mr McArdle to address his "reckless behaviour" and his history of problems with alcohol.

Judge O'Donnell said that the court was not making any decision in respect of a renewed jail term at this time.

The judge said that the accident was not one caused by a 'momentary lapse' but one that was utterly predictable in light of the amount of alcohol Mr McArdle had consumed - at a time when he was driving without insurance.

Judge O'Donnell said that a six year jail term with two years suspended may have been a more appropriate jail term.

Earlier, Mr McArdle was described as an "exemplary prisoner" by his barrister Michael O'Higgins Senior Counsel who asked the court to consider a suspended sentence with community service type work instead of going back to jail.

The DPP said the collision was "a very serious incident".

The Office of the DPP claimed the original sentence was unduly lenient and said there are a number of significant aggravating factors that should give rise to a longer sentence.

"This  has been described as an accident, but this was an accident waiting to happen," said barrister Michael Bowman, for the DPP, who said that the loss of a multiplicity  of lives and the man's previous convictions were aggravating factors.

Mr Bowman said that McArdle had a "fatalistic" attitude towards alcohol consumption.

"It (the sentence) must fall at the higher end, whatever the higher end is" said Mr Bowman who said that it is difficult from previous sentences for dangerous driving causing death to identify with precision what sentence should apply.

Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins, for Mr McArdle, said that the discounts applied to his client's original sentence - part if which was suspended without any conditions being imposed - was not such that a court could conclude was unduly lenient.

A psychological report had concluded that MrMcArdle knew his actions were wrong, that his remorse was genuine and he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder added Mr O'Higgins.

Two years ago Mr McArdle was sentenced to four years in prison.

He was more than three times over the drink-driving limit when he caused a three-car pile-up on a straight stretch of road near Carrickmacross in Monaghan.

McArdle had a number of previous road traffic convictions, including convictions for drink driving and driving without insurance and without a licence, the three judge court heard today.

Mr McArdle also had previous convictions for public order offences related to alcohol, the court also heard.

He had drunk nine pints of Carlsberg lager and up to five glasses of brandy as he and his friends drove from pub to pub - at least four pubs- around Meath and Monaghan on the day of the collision.

A 38-year-old pregnant woman was among those killed.

Roisin Connolly of Grace Park, Drumcondra, Dublin, was driving on the Carrickmacross by-pass with her husband Stephen when their Seat car was struck in heavy rain by the BMW being driven by McArdle.

Mrs Connolly, who was five months pregnant, was killed.

Doctors delivered Mrs Connolly's baby, Catherine, but she also died.

Her husband survived with injuries.

Two passengers in the BMW, Glen Curtis and Paul Carroll, were also killed, while another man in that car was seriously injured but survived.

The sentence hearing continues.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News