Courts

Friday 25 July 2014

Drunk driver who killed pregnant teacher Roisin Connolly in car crash sent back to prison

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 11/03/2014|13:02

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Kevin McArdle. Inset: Roisin Connolly

A man who caused the deaths of three people in a head-on collision after driving on the wrong side of the road having drank almost three-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit was sent back to prison today, following a successful appeal of his sentence by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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The Court of Criminal Appeal had found that the sentence of four years with one suspended imposed on Kevin McArdle (31), of Longfield, Carrickmacross, at Monaghan Circuit Court in October 2011 for dangerous driving causing death was “unduly lenient”.

The 31-year-old had drank almost three-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit and was on the wrong side of the road when he drove his BMW car headlong in to a car driven by Stephen Connolly on the Carrickmacross to Ardee road on December 27th, 2010.

Mr Connolly's wife Roisin (39) and their unborn child were killed. Glen Curtis and Paul Carroll, two 27-year-old friends who were passengers in McArdle’s car, also died.

The final year of McArdle’s sentence was suspended and he was banned from driving for 12 years. He was released from prison on August 29th last year, having voluntarily entered custody in May 2011.

Presiding judge, Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, along with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said it was a “very serious case of dangerous driving” which caused the death of three individuals.

The case was adjourned last September to allow McArdle to address his drinking problem and to direct the preparation of reports which would allow the court to consider whether it would be possible not to extend the custodial portion of the sentence imposed.

However, the judge said, very little had happened since then and court was not convinced that it should not impose a custodial sentence.

Mr Justice O'Donnell said McArdle, having served his sentence, had been brought back before the court on two occasions and was now faced with going back to jail having already been released.

In those circumstances, the judge said, the court would not impose the sentence which it felt would have been appropriate.

The court substituted the original sentence with a sentence of 6 years with the last 2 years suspended on the same terms as set down by the Circuit Court.

Mr Justice O'Donnell said the sentence required a further period of incarceration of 1 year from yesterday's (Tuesday's) date including a disqualification period of 12 years from the date of the Circuit Court order.

The court heard previously that McArdle had been drinking since 9:30am on the day of the collision and had visited three or four pubs.

There was evidence that he dangerously overtook two people on the N2 road – cutting in front of one car and forcing the driver on to the hard shoulder - before driving on the wrong side of the road for no reason.

An oncoming Opel car was hit in the rear after it managed to swerve out of McArdle’s path and on to the wrong side of the road, but Mr Connolly's car was hit head-on. The court heard there was a considerable distance between the car that swerved and Mr Connolly’s car.

SUBMISSSIONS

Counsel for the DPP, Michael Bowman BL, told the court that the offence was “an accident waiting to happen” due to the amount of alcohol consumed by McArdle, who had drank nine pints of beer and five brandies, leaving him with almost three-and-half times the legal blood/alcohol limit in his system.

He said that McArdle had presented at court on a multiplicity of occasions in relation to road traffic offences and had taken the view that he “effectively could do what he wants” in terms of road matters.

Counsel said that McArdle was driving without insurance at the time of the offence and had previous convictions for drink-driving, driving without insurance and driving within the currency of a disqualification term.

Mr Bowman said that a psychological report indicated that McArdle had limited insight in to the “devastating consequences” of his actions and that he considered it normal to drink 10 to 16 pints a night.

He said McArdle had affirmed it was commonplace in his locality for young people to drink and drive and when asked by the psychologist if he would continue to drink McArdle replied he would reduce his alcohol intake considerably but would still have the odd pint.

In light of McArdle’s previous convictions and his attitude as outlined in the psychologist’s report, Mr Bowan said that Judge John O’Hagan’s decision not to attach any conditions to the suspended portion of the sentence should be considered an error in principle.

Counsel for McArdle, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, said that McArdle’s crossing on to the wrong side of the road was a “momentary lapse in concentration” brought about by excessive consumption of alcohol. On another occasion, Mr O’Higgins said, the action could have had no consequences.

He said the psychological report indicated that McArdle was ultimately a “humble and self-effacing person” who knew that his actions were wrong, had genuine remorse and suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr O’Higgins said the report indicated that some of McArdle’s comments to the psychologist were a defence mechanism, because if he were to confront the reality of the situation he would be overwhelmed.

He said there was community service work available for McArdle in his home town and he was willing to submit to any form of alcohol treatment, including attending AA.

Mr O’Higgins said McArdle was anxious to stay out of jail as he had completed his sentence and was not convinced a return to jail would be of any great benefit.

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