Thursday 19 October 2017

'My father's dangerous driving death wasn't taken seriously'

Eugene Maher’s widow, Marie, and daughter Lisa outside court Picture: Collins
Eugene Maher’s widow, Marie, and daughter Lisa outside court Picture: Collins

Ruaidhrí Giblin

An unlicensed driver who "ploughed into" a 62-year-old cyclist, killing him, then drove away has been given an extra nine months in jail following an appeal by prosecutors.

Christopher Coleman (27), of Reuben Street, Dublin, had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Eugene Maher at Clontarf Road, Dublin, on June 30, 2015.

Coleman also admitted leaving the scene of the crash and driving without insurance. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment by Judge Melanie Greally on June 23 last year, and was disqualified from driving for 15 years.

The DPP sought a review of Coleman's sentence on grounds that it was "unduly lenient".

The Court of Appeal re-sentenced Coleman to six years imprisonment with the final two years and nine months suspended. The three-judge court effectively increased his jail time by nine months.

Outside court, Eugene Maher's daughter Lisa said: "It's not dangerous driving and it's not careless driving. The severity of these sentences needs to be changed. It needs to be vehicular manslaughter. My dad was killed by a car and it doesn't seem to be taken as seriously as we would like. So we will continue to lobby for what we believe is right.

"My dad was a very forgiving person. He always gave people a second chance. He would have been the type of man that would have given a person like Christopher Coleman a second chance at a new life. We hope he will turn his life around on the back of this. That lessons will be learned."

Counsel for the DPP, Eilis Brennan BL, said the incident occurred on "one of those all too rare sunny evenings in June". Mr Maher was "in the prime of his life", and on his daily cycle. While crossing the pedestrian lights, which were in his favour, a car came out of nowhere and "ploughed into him".

The car did not belong to Coleman. It had been driven by his friend to the beach and Coleman drove it back because he had not been drinking.

Ms Brennan said that as far back as the Yacht Bar and Restaurant, the car had been seen driving dangerously, at speed and on the wrong side of the road. Witnesses said people were hanging out of the window interacting with another car.

She said the car crashed into Mr Maher, somebody "popped out", took a look at the man on the ground, got back into the car and the car drove away. The car was found abandoned nearby in Marino. A bus driver encountered five men "very anxious" to get on the bus.

Coleman had 15 previous convictions including three driving bans. Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the headline sentence was too low given the aggravating factors: the speed, the breaking of the red light, driving while disqualified and leaving the scene.

Irish Independent

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