Sunday 16 December 2018

Man with previous drink driving convictions who killed teenage boy while over the limit escapes prison sentence

Stock picture
Stock picture

Ralph Riegel

A PENSIONER who pleaded guilty to careless driving while over the alcohol limit which caused the death of a teenage boy escaped a prison sentence.

Sean Collins (71), who had a previous conviction for drink driving, received a 12 month suspended prison sentence arising from the death of Stefan Cooper (18) in west Cork two years ago.

Collins of Threeneeves, Leap, Rosscarbery, Co Cork pleaded guilty to careless driving causing death and driving with excess alcohol on March 8 2016.

Mr Cooper, a secondary school student from Tragumna, died when the bicycle he was riding was in collision with the jeep being driven by Mr Collins.

The accident occurred shortly after 5pm outside Rosscarbery on the main Cork-Skibbereen road.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told that Mr Cooper was riding his bicycle without a light and while wearing dark clothing.

A number of other drivers reported being concerned about the young man on the road.

The cyclist had apparently been weaving on the road with several drivers saying they found it difficult to pass him.

One motorist was so concerned he turned around on the roadway and was driving back to meet Mr Cooper and offer him a lift home for his own safety.

Tragically, the fatal accident occurred before he could reach the cyclist.

In victim impact statements read by investigating Gardai, Mr Cooper's father, Christy, and sisters, Michaela and Emilia, spoke of how they were left devastated by the tragedy.

The teen's father said his children had lost their mother nine years previously.

"The nightmare of that was relieved all over again for them," he said.

The father of three had to identify his son's remains at the accident scene - and was then left with the agonising decision of whether to stay with his son or go back to inform his daughters of the tragedy before they heard about their brother's death on social media.

"I made the most difficult decision of my life - I had to leave my son on the side of wet road with strangers while I went home to tell my daughters what had happened."

"It was unbearable."

Judge O'Donnabhain was told that Mr Collins had a blood alcohol level of 140mg, almost three times over the 50mg limit

He had a previous conviction for drink driving in 2006.

"This man was driving without keeping a proper look out," he said.

"I regard that as a very fundamental matter. There is a fundamental requirement on all road users to keep a proper look out."

Judge O'Donnabhain was told Collins is the sole carer for his wife who is ill and effectively housebound.

The pensioner was deeply distressed at the accident scene and co-operated fully with Gardai.

"This man is not made of stone - he was very remorseful on the night in question," the judge said.

He added he had to balance the potential jailing of the defendant with its consequences for his elderly wife who depends entirely on her husband.

He also said that a driving disqualification would have very serious consequences for the defendant given how people in rural Ireland heavily depend on their cars.

"This is a significant punishment," he said.

Judge O'Donnabhain imposed a suspended 12 month prison sentence and disqualified Mr Collins from driving for five years.

He also ruled that, when the disqualification period ends, Mr Collins must re-sit his driving test before he can get his license back.

Judge O'Donnabhain also fined the pensioner Euro 500.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News