Monday 18 December 2017

'Eugene would want me to forgive killer... but I can't'

Christopher Coleman. Photo: Courtpix
Christopher Coleman. Photo: Courtpix

Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson

A man who fatally knocked down a cyclist when he drove a car at speed through a red light has been jailed for two and a half years.

Eugene Maher (62) died from head injuries hours after being struck by a car driven by Christopher Coleman (27). He had been banned from driving at the time and had never held a driving licence.

Coleman of Reuben Street, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Maher at Clontarf Road, Dublin on June 30, 2015. He also admitted leaving the scene of the crash and to driving without insurance.

Judge Melanie Greally offered her sympathies to the Maher family and said that the grief and anger they experienced was palpable. She commended the family on conducting themselves with great dignity.

She described the family's victim impact statements as "powerful and moving" in describing the scale of loss of a man in the prime of his life and at the heart and soul of his family.

Judge Greally said after reviewing the authorities and factors in the case she had placed it at the lower half of the medium band. The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death is ten years.

Marie Maher whose husband Eugene was killed by driver Christopher Coleman. Photo: Courtpix
Marie Maher whose husband Eugene was killed by driver Christopher Coleman. Photo: Courtpix

She imposed a two and a half year sentence and disqualified him from driving for 15 years.

Numerous witnesses from the scene described the car coming out of nowhere on the inside bus lane while traffic was stopped at the red lights. Witnesses also saw the car travelling at speed earlier along the Clontarf Road. They also saw a front seat passenger hanging out of the window of the car gesturing towards another car.

There was cheering and roaring coming from the car shortly before the collision. One witness said he then heard screeching of brakes and screaming before the sound of the impact.

Coleman tried to stop the car by doing a handbrake turn and the car ended up spinning around. He drove off at speed from the crash, dangerously overtaking a number of other cars. He went to gardaí six days after the collision and told them that he took full responsibility. He said he was very sorry for not having the courage to stop at the scene.

Garda Linda Connaughton told the court that Coleman has 15 previous convictions including four for driving without insurance.

Coleman told gardaí that he was "so sorry for the family" of Mr Maher. He said he panicked after the crash because he had been banned from driving.

During an emotional sentence hearing the victim's daughter, Lisa Maher, read out three impact reports.

She said Mr Maher was her hero and her mentor.

"My dad died for nothing. He was left for dead on the side of the road," she said.

Stephen Maher said that while death is inevitable and that "we will all experience the death of a loved one", his father had been left for dead on a busy road.

Marie Maher said her late husband always said "forgive and forget" but said: "Right now I cannot find it in my heart to forgive".

"The silence in the house is deafening," she said in her statement, read by her daughter to the court. The couple had a business together but she had to close it after his death.

In a letter to the court Coleman said he knows that he is responsible for causing life-long suffering to the Maher family and will carry that guilt with him until the day he dies.

Irish Independent

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