A MAN who witnessed a friend being shot dead was still traumatised by the murder when he drove a car at high speed for 20 miles across Dublin city, a court has heard.
Sean Byrne (20) was one of three men sitting in a parked car in February 2012 when a female passenger was shot dead in front of them. The trial of two men is due to commence shortly in relation to the shooting.
A month later Byrne was arrested after a high speed chase that began in Finglas, north Dublin city and ended in a collision on Blessington Road, Tallaght on the south city.
Byrne was driving the car when it crashed into a jeep in which a man was taking his two teenage daughters to the Irish Dancing World Championships.
Byrne of Brookfield Heights, Tallaght pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving, endangerment and using an uninsured vehicle at Blessington Road on March 31, 2012.
Judge Desmond Hogan suspended a jail term of two years on the condition that Byrne does 240 hours community service. He also fined him €500 and banned him from driving for three years.
Garda Robbie Byrne told Garnet Orange BL, prosecuting, that Byrne drove 20 miles across built up areas, sometimes reaching speeds of over 155 Kph on the night.
He said at times Byrne turned off the lights of the car and “blind overtook” three cars while a Garda helicopter tracked the car's movements along the M50.
Byrne also drove on the wrong side of the road, nearly forcing oncoming cars off the road. The court heard he repeatedly carried out dangerous manoeuvres at speed.
John Milliner (43), the driver of a jeep that Byrne crashed into at the end of the chase, said his family were left distraught after the crash.
He told gardai: “My daughters and wife started screaming. I thought the car might go on fire as there was smoke coming from it.
“My wife and daughter pulled muscles in their neck and shoulders. They were all traumatised. The children cried all night after the collision”.
Byrne has four previous convictions including one for drug dealing and another in Sligo District Court for a burglary committed on March 20, 2012.
Garda Byrne agreed with David Wheelahan BL, defending, that the two other men in the car were older men with more extensive criminal histories.
Counsel said these his client had behaved in a very out of character way as a result of the extremely traumatic incident a month earlier when his friend was shot dead in front of him as they sat in the car together. Byrne drove the victim straight to the hospital but she died from her injuries.
Counsel said that Byrne then turned to drink and drugs and was staying at a Travellers’ encampment in the weeks after as a result of shots being fired at his family home.
A report from a clinical psychologist stated that Byrne suffered chronic post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the fatal shooting. The court also heard a reference which stated that Byrne works voluntarily with disabled and special needs children.