Wednesday 13 December 2017

'No light at end of tunnel' - Man who blamed girlfriend for crash which killed her and another woman appeals sentence

Teresa Kiely (49), inset, was travelling with her daughter in another car in the day
Teresa Kiely (49), inset, was travelling with her daughter in another car in the day

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A MAN who sought to blame his girlfriend for causing a car crash that killed her and another woman has moved to appeal his conviction and sentence of seven years imprisonment.

James O'Donovan (30), of Athy, Co Kildare, had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of Rosanna Potts (22), his girlfriend and passenger, as well as Teresa Kiely (49), who was travelling with her daughter in another car, at Youngstown, Athy, on December 27, 2012.

O'Donovan was found guilty by a jury at Naas Circuit Criminal Court and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by Judge Leonie Reynolds on March 2, 2015.

The Court of Appeal heard today from prosecuting counsel, Orla Crowe BL, that O'Donovan had been driving on a “notably” straight stretch of road with a passenger on board in daylight hours when it was still dry.

O'Donovan's car veered off the road into the ditch. It travelled along the ditch and then came out, zigzagged across the road and turned around entirely, Ms Crowe said.

The strength of the impact was such that O'Donovan's car was seen to spin three times, Ms Crowe said. There was no evidence on O'Donovan's manner of driving and both cars were in perfect mechanical order.

O'Donovan said his girlfriend had been arguing with him, kept pulling at his hoodie and hit him a couple of times. They were fighting in the car, he said, for about 60 seconds and 100 yards before the crash.

In sentencing, the Circuit Court judge had said it was “utterly reprehensible” that O’Donovan had “sought to attribute sole blame to Ms. Potts.”

Opening an appeal against conviction and sentence, O'Donovan's barrister, Damien Colgan SC, said his side couldn't give a definitive answer to how the accident took place and there were conflicting opinions from two forensic collision experts.

Mr Colgan said the issue as to how the accident took place had to be resolved by a jury. O'Donovan was “entitled to fight his trial” and to challenge the differences between the two experts.

Mr Colgan said seven years was on the higher end the scale - the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment - and there was no light at the end of the tunnel for O'Donovan in terms of a suspended sentence.

Following a three-day break over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Mr Colgan said the trial judge was asked to reiterate to the jury that, where there was a conflict in the evidence, they must choose the version favourable to the accused.

Mr Colgan said the trial judge refused to accede to this requisition and in doing so, fell into error.

Ms Crowe said any driver having a row in their car was under an obligation to stop rather than continue driving.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court hoped to deliver judgment on Friday.

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