Saturday 20 July 2019

Drunk driver who killed biker and fled the scene has five year jail term upheld by Court of Appeal

Stock image
Stock image

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A drunk driver who fled the scene of a fatal collision he caused by attempting an illegal u-turn has had his five year jail term upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Declan Moran (40), of Carrentrilla, Ballina, Co Mayo, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of motorcyclist Martin ‘Morch’ Wynne (42) on the N26 at Ballinahaglish, Ballina on May 8, 2016. He also pleaded guilty at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court to leaving the scene.

Moran was drunk and had traces of cocaine in his body when he performed an illegal u-turn on the roadway, having pulled into the hard shoulder moments earlier, to make a phone call.

He swung to his right to perform the turn but came across the path of Mr Wynne’s motorcycle, causing a collision. Mr Wynne, who had worked for the Road Safety Authority, was dragged under the rear axle of the van for some 18 metres from the point of impact. He died at the scene.

Moran was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final year suspended by Judge Rory McCabe, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal today.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Edwards said the incident was witnessed by several people, all of whom went immediately to the aid of the deceased. Emergency services were contacted within a minute, and were on the scene quickly, but unfortunately Mr Wynne could not be saved.

One witness saw Moran get out of his van, walk to the rear where Mr Wynne was trapped and walk away. Several witnesses recalled Moran sitting on a road barrier with his head in his hands, and then leaving the scene on foot in the direction of Carrentrila.

A major search was commenced in order to locate Moran. While he was a person of interest to the gardaí, there was also concern for his welfare and the local River Moy Search and Rescue Boat was launched, along with other civilian boats, to find him.

He was located at his house by his father. Upon his arrest he replied: “what can I say”.

A urine sample, provided three hours and 14 minutes after the collision, showed 183 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine. The limit in force at the time was 67 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine.

Moran was uncooperative in his first three garda interviews but subsequently made admissions. He admitted his involvement in the collision, having earlier been drinking in “Hughes’ Pub” and fleeing the scene. He also admitted taking cocaine a day and a half beforehand.

He had one previous conviction for drink driving from 2010, for which he was fined €400 and banned from driving for three years.

He had studied mechanical engineering at university but failed one subject which prevented him from getting his degree. He was unemployed at the time of sentence but voluntarily helped his father with certain research into poultry vaccines.

It was submitted on Moran’s behalf that he was “profoundly remorseful” and a letter he had written to the Wynne family, expressing his guilt and shame, was read out by his counsel, Diarmuid Connolly BL, at the sentence hearing.

Mr Wynne was survived by his wife and their three-year-old daughter.

Mr Justice Edwards said this was not merely a serious failure to exercise a degree of care.

He said it was “seriously reckless” to have attempted the u-turn “in circumstances where he was under the influence of alcohol to such a degree that alertness, ability to react, and judgment were inevitably impaired”.

It may reasonably be inferred, he said, that Moran “knew that he should not have been driving. He had previously been punished for driving while under the influence of alcohol. He well knew the risk involved, yet he drove regardless of the fact that he had consumed a significant quantity of alcohol.”

In addition was the highly aggravating factor of Moran’s previous conviction for drink driving.

The sentencing judge had said ‘the moral blameworthiness of the accused is heavy and the sentence must reflect this”. The Court of Appeal agreed.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Brian McGovern, said the eight year headline sentence was not excessive. Nor was the ultimate sentence of six years imprisonment with the final year suspended.

The appeal was therefore dismissed.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News