Thursday 24 May 2018

'I have brought unimaginable grief' - Man over drink driving limit when he fatally struck woman jailed for two years

The remains of Claire Hewitt are brought to St Ciaran's Church, Hartstown, for her funeral mass across the road from where she was killed
The remains of Claire Hewitt are brought to St Ciaran's Church, Hartstown, for her funeral mass across the road from where she was killed

Declan Brennan

A driver who was slightly over the drink driving limit when he fatally struck a woman walking home at night has been jailed for two years.

Marjo Cayabyab (27) was driving the car at excessive speed and was “two points” over the legal alcohol limit when he hit two women at they crossed the Hartstown rd., Clonsilla, Dublin on January 3, 2016.

Claire Hewitt and Ann Keating, who worked together as care staff, had left the nearby Hartstown Inn pub at around 2am and were walking home. It wasn't raining at the time but the road was wet from earlier rainfall.

The car spun out of control and the side of the car hit both women, who had nearly made it across the road. Ms Keating was thrown onto the road and Mrs Hewitt thrown onto the nearby grass verge.

Both women were taken to hospital where Ms Hewitt was pronounced dead within the hour.

Cayabyab of Beechwood Downs, Hartstown, Dublin pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm on January 3, 2016.

He  told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he didn't know why he behaved so recklessly on the night and said he would  live with the enormous guilt for the rest of his life.

The collision took place after a long sweeping bend of around 50 to 70 metres. Since this crash two further serious accidents have taken place, one of them involving a fatality, on the same stretch and there are now speed ramps in place.

Cayabyab stayed at the scene and told gardaí that he had been drinking earlier in the night. He was later tested and found to be “slightly over the legal limit” with 37 microgrammes of alcohol in his breath, Sgt John O'Donoghue told Fionnuala O'Sullivan BL, prosecuting. The legal limit at the time was 35.

Cayabyab also told gardai he was driving at between 40 to 60 kmph. The speed limit at the scene is 50 kmph.

Forensic investigators were unable to determine the speed of the car but concluded the car was being driven at excessive speed for the conditions at the time. The court heard that due to this there was no or very small reaction time for the driver to react to anybody crossing the road.

Judge Martin Nolan said that the fact that Cayabyab was driving at an excessive speed and was “two points” over the drink driving limit were aggravating factors.

“He should have noticed and seen the ladies on the road,” he said. The reason why he wasn't able to safely navigate around the women was his excessive speed, the judge said.

He noted that driving above the alcohol limit is deemed to impair judgement. He said that he was reluctantly imposing a custodial sentence because he felt Cayabyab is “a good man”.

The court heard that Cayabyab has no other convictions. He is devoutly religious and has been ostracised by his church since the incident.

After his arrest he told gardaí he wanted to ask the victim's family for forgiveness. He admitted having drank two rum drinks at a party at his house earlier that night.

During the party he decided he wanted to show somebody his car and went out to look at it. He then got into the car with some others and was driving for around less than five minutes before the accident.

Judge Nolan said that he could take it that the accused reacted when he saw the women on the road and his attempt to avoid the women caused the car to spin out of control.

In a letter to the court Cayabyab said he didn't know why he had behaved so recklessly on the night and had never behaved like that before.

“I have brought unimaginable grief and pain to two families and shame on my own family,” he said, adding that any judicial punishment would be nothing compared to the “enormous guilt I must live with for the rest of my life”.

David Hewitt, the deceased woman's husband, said Cayabyab's late admissions were hard on the family. He said family outings and birthdays were now trips to the graveyard.

In her victim impact statement Ms Keating said she will never forget the night as it changed her life forever. Her injuries included fractured ribs and pelvis and liver lacerations and she was hospitalised for four months.

She requires ongoing treatment and finds climbing stairs and driving difficult. Her attention span has also been affected.

Roisin Lacey SC, defending, submitted that her client was “a decent young man who made a very very grave error on the night”. Judge Nolan accepted that he had expressed true remorse and would not re-offend.

He set a headline sentence of four to five years but said Cayabyab's strong mitigation reduced this to two years.

Judge Nolan said that it is possible to drive safely while over the alcohol limit but later added that “anybody who takes alcohol and drives takes a huge risk”.

He said Cayabyab was going much too fast in a built up area. He imposed a four year driving ban and said Cayabyab is “a moral man with a conscience”.

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