A an who killed a 77-year-old woman when he knocked her down as she was crossing the road may avoid a jail term after a judge ruled that his driving didn’t justify a custodial sentence.
When evidence was heard on Wednesday the family of Rose Douglas said it was some comfort to them to know that she was not at fault when Carl Feighery (32) struck her.
Ms Douglas died from her injuries after she was knocked down by a car on the North Road, Finglas, Dublin 11 on January 9, 2013.
Today Judge Martin Nolan adjourned the sentence until May to allow for a report from the Probation Service to determine if Feighery is suitable for community service.
He said he had to concentrate on the driving that gave rise to the offence and indicated that, after considering the evidence, he could not find any aggravating circumstances, such as drink driving, excessive speed or prolonged dangerous driving.
“He is guilty of losing focus,” Judge Nolan said which he described as “a human frailty”.
He said in his opinion it would be unfair to imprison Feighery for this type of driving, “even though the consequences have been dreadful” for the Douglas family and their friends.
He remanded Feighery on bail, adjourned the case until May 5, next and disqualified him from driving for five years.
Feighery, an electrician with an address at Millbourne Crescent, Ashbourne, County Meath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing death.
Judge Nolan told the Douglas family, on hearing evidence on Wednesday that he was very sorry for their loss, describing the late Mrs Douglas as a great woman for her family, her husband and the church.
“She was a very fine person, an old-fashioned lady in the best sense of the word,” he said.
Mrs Douglas' son Dermot read a victim impact statement to the court on behalf of his family describing the devastating consequences of his mother's death.
He said his mother had been more than a wife, a mother-of-six, a grandmother-of-15 and a great-grandmother-of-one; but had also been very active within the community and the church.
He said Mrs Douglas was a Minister for the Eucharist who went to Lourdes every year with the infirm and volunteered for the local St Francis' Hospice.
On the morning of her death, she left the house to collect charity boxes for the hospice from a local garage, telling her husband she was just popping out for a minute.
Dermot Douglas said his father has not had a happy day since his wife of 60 years was killed and has been afraid to leave the house in case he misses her coming home. He said his family understands it was a tragic accident and that Feighery's early guilty plea has made their difficulties a little easier.
He said the Douglas family would like to think that, at some stage, Feighery would decide to do some charity work in memory of their late mother.
Garda Sean Kelly told Diarmuid Collins BL, prosecuting, that Mrs Douglas had been crossing the second half of the dual carriage way when she was knocked down by a silver Peugeot car at 11:20 am.
Eye-witness David Kelly, driving behind the Peugeot, told gardaí he could see the lights turning red and noticed that the car ahead of him was not slowing down.
“I thought he definitely hadn’t seen the lights. Mrs Douglas was three-quarters of the way across when he did react. I remember thinking had he just swerved instead of braking he would have avoided her,” he said.
Another witnesses said Mrs Douglas was nearly at the middle of the road when the Peugeot “sent her on a cartwheel through the air”.
They described her lying on the ground with blood coming from her mouth and a large indentation like a golf-ball on her temple. She was taken to the Mater Hospital but passed away from her injuries that evening.
Feighery remained at the scene and made a voluntary statement to gardaí, cooperating fully with their investigation. He was breathalysed and was found to have zero alcohol in his blood. He was not driving above the speed limit.
Feighery said he had been on the way to a dental appointment in Finglas and that it was hard to see as the sun was shining directly in his eyes. He remembered the lights turning, before a pedestrian stepped off the kerb and impacted with his car.
He said he was deeply sorry for Mrs Douglas and her family and accepted full responsibility having heard the evidence. He told gardaí he took off his jumper at the scene and put it over Mrs Douglas' legs.
Garda technical experts examined the scene and said there was some glare off the sun. They said Feighery would have had 5.5 seconds after the lights changed to react to Mrs Douglas crossing the road.
Feighery had one minor previous conviction, and another for drink driving dating back to June 2007, for which he had been disqualified from driving for four years.
Mary Rose Gearty SC, defending, said Feighery has suffered from anxiety and depression since the offence and remains horrified by what he did.
Feighery, who has a two-year-old daughter, expressed his remorse and regret in a letter written to the Douglas family. The court heard that his paternal grandmother died on Tuesday.
Testimonials were handed to the court praising Feighery's work ethic as an electrician at Beaumont Hospital.
In his victim impact statement, Dermot Douglas said his father has lost 45 per cent mental capacity since his wife was killed.
“His life has been smashed,” he said, “all he wants is to be with my mother.”
Mr Douglas said his sister, the only girl among five brothers, had lost not only her mother but her best friend.
He said his youngest brother Craig has moved home and given up his social life to look after their father.