Don't jail driver who injured our daughter, family pleads
THE family of an All-Ireland winning camogie player asked a judge not to jail the dangerous driver who left her with serious spinal injuries.
Carol Phelan (22), from Mullinavat, who captained the Kilkenny minor team to glory in 2006, continues to recover from the horrific injuries she suffered when the car in which she was a passenger crashed last year.
Lucinda Gahan, of Listorlin, Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny, was given a two-year suspended sentence after she pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious harm to Ms Phelan at Listorlin, Mullinavat, on May 16, 2009.
Imposing sentence at Kilkenny Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Olive Buttimer praised Ms Phelan for her courage and dedication in battling her injury and her family for the compassion they showed in pleading with the judge not to impose a custodial sentence.
"This was a tragic accident and imposing a custodial sentence would not serve in the interests of society," the judge said.
Last night, Ms Phelan's father Walter Phelan explained why the family had asked the judge not to impose a custodial sentence.
"They were friends growing up together. We live in a small community. It was an accident at the end of the day; it was not something that was premeditated," he told the Irish Independent.
Ms Phelan, who suffered serious spinal injuries in the crash, spent four months at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire before returning home last year where she continues to have physiotherapy.
The third-year University of Limerick (UL) business and accountancy student was forced to defer her final year in college but Mr Phelan said she was determined to resume her studies and planned on returning to UL next September.
"It's over now and she's hoping to get on with her life," he said.
Garda Martin Clarke, who is stationed at Kilmoganny garda station, told the court that he attended the scene of the single-vehicle accident at 3.20am on the date in question.
"There were six adult occupants in the car. When I got to the scene, the injured party, Carol Phelan, was lying out beside the car and the ambulance was attending to her. There was a fleadh ceoil going on and the defendant had consumed some alcohol," he said.
Gahan and Ms Phelan played camogie for Mullinavat and both won All-Ireland medals for their county at minor level.
Evidence was heard that Gahan had stopped playing camogie locally since the crash and had also not driven since.
Referring to Gahan, Judge Buttimer said she had read all the references, which she described as "excellent", and acknowledged that Gahan had a driving licence and insurance on the date in question.
She imposed a two-year sentence, which she suspended for two years, and disqualified Gahan from driving for four years.