Saturday 14 December 2019

Drunk driver with 485 convictions who killed teen while speeding jailed for 18 months

'I thought I would have to teach Shane about the world but I now have to teach the world about Shane'

Eamon Lynch. Picture North West Newspix
Eamon Lynch. Picture North West Newspix

Stephen Maguire

A man with nearly 500 previous convictions has been jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to careless driving causing the death of a teenager.

Drunk driver Eamon Lynch's convictions include 280 for traffic offences and 50 for burglary.

He was driving at 165kph when he ploughed into innocent Shane Patton near Drumkeen in July, 2012.

Father-of-three Lynch was drunk and had no driving license, valid NCT, tax or insurance on his car when he struck the 18 year old who had just completed his Leaving Cert.

Lynch fled to Northern Ireland following the tragedy.

However, just before Christmas he was extradited under a European arrest warrant to face trial for Mr Patton's death to which he pleaded guilty.

The court heard how Lynch, who is originally from Derry, was driving his Toyota Celica with his partner just after midnight on July 12 when the smash happened.

The entire smash was caught on the CCTV system of a local service station.

Garda forensic examiners estimated that Lynch was traveling at 165 kph on the main Ballybofey to Letterkenny Road which is governed by a 100 kph speed limit.

Mr Patton, of Cloghroe, Drumkeen, emerged from a side road but Lynch was traveling so fast that he did not have time to take evasive action and smashed into the teenager.

Judge Martin Nolan
Judge Martin Nolan

All were rushed to Letterkenny University Hospital but Mr Patton was pronounced dead later.

The dead teenager's heartbroken mother Julie read a harrowing victim impact statement out to the court.

She revealed how Shane, the eldest of a family of three children, had just completed his Leaving Certificate and has just been accepted onto a course to train as a mechanic.

Mrs Patton said that her entire family were heartbroken by the "happy, beautiful boy" who had been taken from them.

She said Shane's brother and sister, Dina and Jason, did not have someone to help them with their homework and how she set the table for four people instead of five.

She told how his grandmother Mary had to watch Shane being buried on what should have been a celebration of her 70th birthday.

Letterkenny Circuit Court also heard how Shane, who has passed his driving test aged just 17, had only ever wanted to be a mechanic.

While in school he would tell teachers what was wrong with their cars.

Shane's father Martin, who was also in court, was trying his best to get on with his life for the rest of his family, Mrs Patton said.

"I thought I would have to teach Shane about the world but I now have to teach the world about Shane. I have to tell people that it is not okay to drink and drive because it destroys families," she added.

And she added; "There is no quick fix and no getting over it. There is no glue to fix all the broken hearts."

The court heard from prosecution barrister Patricia McLoughlin how Lynch had 483 convictions before the current charges were heard.

Barrister for the accused, Richard Lyons, said his client had written a note to the Patton family in which he wanted to express his deep and genuine remorse.

"I cannot express in words how really, really sorry I am for the loss of Shane. I will never in my lifetime get over this. I know the heartache you are going through but I did not set out to hurt anyone, let alone hurt Shane.

"I know I have destroyed your lives and I cannot express my words. I hope and pray that you will accept my apology. If I could grant one wish I would wish you had you son back. There isn't a day that I don't think about it and I will never get over it myself," he said.

Judge Martin Nolan firstly expressed his sincere sympathy to the Patton family on the loss of their son and brother Shane.

He said that although drink was a factor, the real factor in the case was Lynch's speed and how he could not avoid the collision because he was driving at such speed.

He sentenced him to 18 months in prison for the careless driving charge and a further three months for drink driving to run concurrently.

He took the other charges into consideration.

The court also heard how Shane Patton's car was in good condition, was taxed and was insured.

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