Sunday 21 January 2018

Mother who couldn’t see out car window avoids jail despite ‘catapulting man off bike’

Sinead King leaving court today. Photo Collins Courts.
Sinead King leaving court today. Photo Collins Courts.

By Sonya McLean

A BEAUTY therapist who catapulted a cyclist into the air leaving him with catastrophic injuries has been given a 12 month suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Sinead King (29) didn’t de-mist her car windows that morning before setting out on her drive to work. She accepted that she couldn’t see out properly and later told gardaí she had no idea she had knocked someone over.

She said she noticed four children playing on one side of the road and then heard a loud bang. She noticed her windscreen was broken and assumed her former partner, who she had difficulties with in the past, had attacked her car.

King drove on leaving Peter Vaughan, a retired English man who had been visiting his son in Clondalkin, on the side of the road with his leg broken in three places, a broken eye socket and mild brain damage.

Mr Vaughan told gardaí that he had taken his son’s bicycle to the local shops and “was catapulted” into the air. He had seen no cars around and thought at first it was a gas explosion.

As he lay on the ground he looked again for a car but could see no vehicle either to his left or right.

King, a mother of two, of Riverside, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious harm on Monastery Road, Clondalkin on October 16, 2010.

She had one previous conviction for failing to give a breath sample and was banned from driving for four years in December 2010.

Garda Ruth Brett told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that a passerby came to Mr Vaughan’s assistance and called an ambulance. The same man also recovered debris from the road, which included a wing mirror and broken bits of plastic

She said King arrived at the garda station four hours after the accident to report the damage done to her car.

When the garda examined the vehicle she realised it was the one that had been involved in the accident and cautioned King.

King maintained that she had no idea that she had knocked anyone down.

Gda Brett agreed with Paul Comiskey O’Keefe BL, defending, that there was no indication that King had been driving at excessive speeds and she told gardaí herself that she had been driving at 30 Km per hour.

Mr Comiskey O’Keefe said his client became pregnant with her first child when she was 17 years old but sat the Leaving Certificate two weeks after giving birth.

He said her mother died of cancer and she had promised her that she would return to education, . She went on to study beauty therapy and later opened her own salon in Crumlin.

Mr Comiskey O’Keefe said his client had “made a simple error” but one which had serious consequences.

He submitted that King had displayed genuine remorse and empathy and concern for Mr Vaughan.

Judge Patrick McCartan told King she had made a dreadful mistake because she didn’t have the patience to properly defog her car windows.

“She did a very foolish thing to get up and drive to work in an urban area when see could not see out,” before he added that she compounded her wrong doing by driving away.

Judge McCartan had read documents outlining King’s previous relationship with the father of her two boys and accepted he was “an appalling man” and a “blaggard”.

He accepted that if this man had been given an opportunity he probably would have attacked King’s car.

The judge said he had the “highest regard” for the progress King has made noting that she now runs a salon with a business partner that employs four staff.

He accepted that her remorse for her actions on the day were completely genuine and said he didn’t believe anything would be achieved by sending her to prison.

The judge then handed down a 12 month suspended sentence and banned King from driving for 10 years,  but noted that she has “lost her nerve” and doesn’t intend to drive again.

After King entered into her bond Judge McCartan told her; “You made a dreadful mistake but put it behind you. I believe you have the resilience to do so. Everything else about you impresses me.”

King took the stand to apologise. She said had tried to find the right words to apologise profusely to Mr Vaughan and his family for the pain she has put them through but said there are no such words to convey the depth of her feelings.

“This guilt will never leave me. How badly I hurt him and his family. I am not a person who would hurt another human being,” Ms King said.

She said she had been the victim of a hit and run herself when she was 13 years old and begged the Vaughans for forgiveness.

“I spent so many days, weeks and months going to the garda station to see how he was doing. I was deeply shocked when I learned the extent of his injuries,” Ms King continued.

She said she would struggle to live with this for the rest of her life and hoped that Mr Vaughan would feel just how sorry she is.

Mr Vaughan was not in court but Mr Le Vert read his victim impact report into the record. It stated that Mr Vaughan had just retired at the time of the accident and was looking forward to sharing that time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

He said he spent 12 months going to hospital appointments and undergoing minor operations and was entirely dependent on his wife. He is still at risk of infection in his leg because the bones broke through the skin and he now walks with a limp.

Mr Vaughan outlined that he also suffered mild brain damage which has left him short-tempered, absent minded and emotional. He said medical staff believes this condition should rectify itself in three years but he didn’t see that happening.

He said he felt “lucky to be alive”.

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