A young driver who admitted responsibility for the death of his friend in a crash avoided jail after a poignant plea by the bereaved family.
Alan Harrington (19) had behaved in "a most exemplary" way after he crashed his parents' car in Co Roscommon last year, a court in Longford heard yesterday.
The single-vehicle crash, which occurred near Frenchpark in the early hours of August 19, 2012, resulted in the death of 17-year-old student Eoin Lavin.
Harrington, of Lacken, Kingsland, Boyle, had pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing his friend's death at a sitting of Roscommon Circuit Court earlier this year.
The court heard that Harrington was driving with four friends when he lost control of the Honda Accord at Carrowreagh, Frenchpark.
Mr Lavin was the front-seat passenger and the friends, who had earlier sat their Leaving Cert together, had been watching a DVD before deciding to go for a spin. Harrington had consumed no alcohol, but a forensic report indicated the car had been travelling at a minimum 118kmh within an 80kmh speed limit. Mr Lavin was pronounced dead at the scene.
The court heard that Harrington was co-operative and acknowledged that he was speeding on the night. "I blame myself because I broke the speed limit with other people in the car," Harrington told gardai.
In a victim-impact statement Mr Lavin's parents, Aidan and Trudy, and their daughter, Vicky, spoke of their heartbreak.
"Every day is a struggle to get out of bed. We put on a brave face and try our best to do everyday things that have to be done. Life is so very different now. Nothing is the same," the Lavin family said.
"It is also heartbreaking living with the fact that Eoin will never have a chance to follow his dream to farm the Lavin land," the family added.
The heartbreak of losing a child was "unbearable" and Eoin would forever be a "missing link" in their lives.
"When you lose your child, life is unbearable. All we have is intense grief, heartache, and despair and nothing can help with that. We try to continue for the sake of our daughter but there is also that missing link, that shining light that was so much part of us and that we thought would be there long after we had gone," they said.
The Lavin family accepted that accidents can happen and said they harboured no bitterness and did not wish to see the accused, who was a good friend of their son's, go to prison.
"Five school friends watched a DVD then went for a spin. Four men returned. Our man, Eoin, remains a schoolboy forever," the Lavin family said.
Judge Tony Hunt described it as a very great tragedy for the Lavin family and to a lesser degree for Harrington. His friend's death was something that would live with him for the rest of his life.
"It is a sentence he has imposed on himself and a very heavy cross to have to bear. But the heaviest cross has to be borne by the Lavin family. To date, it has been borne by them with great dignity and charity in their attitude," Judge Hunt said.
He was weary of saying that he wished people would pay attention to campaigns to get drivers to reduce their speed on the roads and to drive within the limits. It was a pity that those who speed could not come into court and see the reality of what could happen.
He did not believe a prison sentence was appropriate and imposed 200 hours of community service to be completed within 12 months, and disqualified Harrington from driving for nine years.