Tuesday 24 October 2017

Family hits out over death crash driver's sentence

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A FAMILY has criticised a 12-month sentence given to a drunk driver whose dangerous driving caused the death of their "baby brother".

Derek Stronge (19), who had five previous convictions, had also been stopped while drink driving less than three weeks before the crash that killed Patrick McDonagh (16) last year.

Amid emotionally charged scenes at Kilkenny Circuit Court, Stronge (19) was jailed for a year after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr McDonagh.

Mr McDonagh's sister Winifred (27) screamed at the judge late on Thursday night that the 12-month sentence was not enough. She had to be restrained by gardai as she fell to the floor in tears.

Yesterday, she told the Irish Independent how her younger brother was a model student with no previous convictions. He was impressionable, however, and on March 2, 2009, he made a bad decision, getting into Stronge's car. Later that same day, officers contacted his sister to say he was dead.

Winifred had helped her mother, Ann (56), rear Patrick and she looked on him as a son, she said.

She can't shake the image from that night of his unrecognisable face. She was shown photographs from the crash in the garda station.

"Patrick was afraid of the dark," she said yesterday. "I wasn't there to hold his hand when he died. I looked at those pictures and I couldn't even recognise my little brother."


The McDonagh family were not allowed to read out a victim impact statement in court.

"I just wanted to read it out -- to get my opportunity to look him in the eye and make him feel something. I wanted to make him feel some remorse."

Before Stronge was sentenced, his defence counsel conveyed an apology to the family.

Stronge, of 35 Hebron Park, in Kilkenny City, was stopped while driving drunk less than three weeks before the crash. The day before the crash, he was found to be in possession of drugs. He has five previous convictions.

On the night of the crash, he had been drinking and officers told the court he was "over the limit". The road was dry and driving conditions were "good".

Stronge claimed an animal had run out on the road and he had to swerve to avoid it.

The court heard how he began drinking at an early age and started illicit drugs. He left school when he was in his early teens. Stronge and Mr McDonagh were described as "friends".

The McDonagh family will ask the DPP to appeal the sentence. "My mother used to have a glimmer in her eyes," Ms McDonagh said. "There is no glimmer anymore."

Irish Independent

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