Monday 29 December 2014

Judge jails drink-drive killer after DPP appeal

Tim Healy

Published 02/05/2014 | 02:30

Ronan Cunningham leaving court.
Emmanuel Mendes

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.

The three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal imposed the custodial term, along with a 15-year driving ban, on Ronan Cunningham (30), who admitted dangerous driving causing the death of Emmanuel Mendes 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 overturned last year 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 Mendes (23) on October 10, 2010, at Rathcoole, on the N7 Naas dual carriageway.

He also pleaded guilty to driving 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.

Counsel for Cunningham, Paul Greene, said his client became tearful any time he saw relatives of those killed in road accidents speak about their loved ones on road safety television adverts.

He had pleaded guilty at an early stage, and no longer drank or 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, she held him wholly responsible for Mr Mendes's death.

Cunningham was given a week to get his affairs in order before commencing the prison sentence.

Irish Independent

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