Monday 24 April 2017

Drunk driver gets 20-year ban

Crash at accident scene claimed lives of garda and fireman

Barry Duggan

A DRUNK motorist who drove into a road accident scene, leaving a garda and a fireman dead, has been banned from driving for 20 years.

The lengthy ban was the only conviction Niall Shannon (21) received following the deaths of Gda Brian Kelleher (46) and fireman Michael Liston (47) on the N69 route at Barrigone, Co Limerick on February 25, 2007.

Shannon, an unemployed electrician, from Lenamore, Ballylongford, Co Kerry, Shannon, was found guilty of drink-driving in 2008.

Following two trials, separate juries could not agree on whether Shannon was innocent or culpable of charges of dangerous driving causing the deaths of the two men.

Tears

The families and friends of the two dead emergency workers cried openly. None wished to comment publicly.

Gda Kelleher and Michael Liston were attending the scene of a single-vehicle accident where a Toyota Carina had overturned. Shannon had been socialising in Moyvane and Listowel, Co Kerry, on the night before and was driving to Limerick when his Audi Coupe careered into the accident scene, flinging the garda and fireman into the air. They both died at the scene.

The court heard that Shannon had a reading of 55mg of alcohol in his breath on the night of the fatal collision -- the legal limit is 35mg.

Yesterday, his defence counsel said the fact that two men died could not be laid at the feet of Niall Shannon. He said Shannon's "liability has never been determined".

The court was told by Shannon's counsel that he was entitled to a presumption of innocence on this point and that it has been maintained.

When asked had Shannon expressed remorse for the deaths, Supt Joe Roe, of Askeaton garda station, said he wasn't aware of any expressions.

Limerick Circuit Court heard that Shannon had no convictions at the time of the accident, but has since received two for public order offences and minor road traffic offences.

Judge Carroll Moran said there were a number of issues to consider before passing sentence for the Section 49 road traffic offence.

Regarding the question of imprisonment, Judge Moran said that had the guilty party been convicted on the charge of dangerous driving, he "might well have imposed a substantial prison sentence".

However, he noted that neither jury convicted him of the offence.

He said the maximum fine available to him -- €2,500 -- was not a substantial amount of money. "Any amount or less could be seen to be putting a value on the lives lost and that would be offensive," Judge Moran said.

The minimum disqualification sentence available to the judge following the conviction was one year. He said he took the background of the case into account when determining this and disqualified Shannon from driving for 20 years. He refused an application for leave to appeal the disqualification.

Irish Independent

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