Friday 30 September 2016

Man four times over limit when he crashed BMW killing woman and paralysing friend appeals sentence

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 23/06/2015 | 13:15

Judge's gavel
Judge's gavel

A man who was four times over the limit when he crashed his BMW into a roundabout killing a woman and paralysing her friend has moved to appeal his seven year prison sentence.

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Sean Casey (27), of Cooragannive, Skibbereen, Co Cork, had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Megan Johnston (22) and causing serious bodily harm to Kate Petford (24) who was left paralysed following the crash at Skibbereen on April 8 2013.

He was sentenced at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to seven years imprisonment and disqualified from driving for 30 years by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin on February 17 2014.

Moving to appeal his sentence today, counsel for Casey, Tom Creed SC, said his client always knew, “almost out of a sense of atonement”, that he was going to get a custodial sentence.

However, the sentencing judge put this case at “the very apex” of dangerous driving causing death cases and completely ignored the possibility for rehabilitation, Mr Creed said.

There was no evidence that Casey's silver BMW was a 'big powerful' car, Mr Creed said. It may have been one of the least powerful BMWs available and the same results could have been brought about in a one-litre Ford Focus.

There had been reference to Casey being five times over the limit, Mr Creed said. It was accepted Casey was 4.1 times over the legal limit.

Mr Creed said the whole court had been influenced by a very touching and very sad victim impact report from Ms Petford, who was left paralysed following the incident.

It was a palpably sad occasion and the judge seemed to put the case far higher up the scale than he would in a situation less fraught.

The judge seemed to have been influenced by such matters, Mr Creed said.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Lorcan Staines BL, said the devastating consequences that were visited on both families were forseeable and “unfortunately” they fell at the feet of Casey in this case.

Mr Staines said a very large amount of alcohol had been consumed and more people than were legally allowed – five - were in the car at the time.

Mr Staines said the vehicle was travelling at significant speed coming into a roundabout. Evidence was given that the safe speed to approach a roundabout was 34 - 42 kmh. Casey was travelling at 80kmh.

It seemed to be an automatic consequence that there would be a very serious collision travelling at that speed, Mr Staines said.

Other people had said Casey was at a stage of drunkeness that would not enable him to drive, Mr Staines said. The car keys came back to him because of a friend's representations to the barmaid who had taken them.

Furthermore, Casey was experienced with vehicles because of his job. The family business was plant hire, the court heard.

He said dangerous driving causing death cases were difficult to balance because they were not the result of intended actions.

It had been “very very clearly signposted” by the State, Oireachtas and Road Safety Authority that these were actions which cannot be condoned.

The DPP maintained that there was no demonstrated error in principle and it was open to the trial judge to do what he did, Mr Staines said.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the court hoped to be in a position to indicate whether or not there had been an error in principle in Casey's sentence on July 9 next.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the three-judge court would also like to give some consideration as to whether or not the court would perhaps set out sentencing guidelines in the course of its judgment in this case.

Mr Creed was told that Casey will know where he stands by the end of July.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, put the matter back to July 9 when the three judges are sitting together again.

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