Wednesday 16 October 2019

'We will never forgive him for killing our mum' - Son of woman killed by visually-impaired driver

David Byrne (42), with an address in Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Pic Collins Courts.
David Byrne (42), with an address in Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Pic Collins Courts.

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Sonya McLean

A Dublin family have said they will never forgive the visually-impaired man who was convicted of dangerous driving causing their 70-year-old mother's death.

John Dunne, son of Patricia Dunne, described how postman David Byrne (42) put them through two weeks of hell in court by not pleading guilty to the dangerous driving causing death charge.

Reading from his victim impact statement, he said the family believed his mother's death was a factor in his father's death.

He stated that Byrne should not have been driving and that there was no remorse and no apology for the death of his mother, who he described as kind, compassionate, loving and very popular.

During the trial, the court heard Byrne has Type 2 Usher Syndrome which is a degenerative eye disorder resulting in peripheral vision loss.

Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, asked the court to take into account that his client's offer to plead guilty to careless driving causing death was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Byrne (42) of Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mrs Dunne at Collins Avenue East, Killester in Dublin on October 16, 2015.

The father-of-two had also pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly inducing the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) to issue him with a driving licence on September 30, 2014.

He had further denied making a false or misleading statement while taking out insurance on September 16, 2015. He was found guilty by a jury of all three charges following a trial.

He has no previous convictions.

Judge Patricia Ryan said she was going to consider the evidence and a psychological report and remanded Byrne on continuing bail until his sentence finalisation next Friday.

Mr Dunne, in his victim impact statement, described how his mother had been in good form after returning from a holiday in Spain the day before she was killed.

He said that the family never recovered from the shocking way that they lost her and that his father, Mrs Dunne's husband of 52 years, never talked about it and “died a broken man”.

“We will never forgive (Byrne) for killing our mum,” he said.

Mr O'Higgins said his client wished to extend his apologies to the Dunne family.He said this might appear to be coming “at the eleventh hour”, but due to the nature of the case it would have been very difficult to extend an apology until the criminal litigation had done its course.

At the trial, the court heard that Mrs Dunne had been walking home pulling a shopping trolley around midday when she began to cross the road.

A van slowed to allow her to cross, but Byrne's car then hit her and she was “flung up in the air” before the vehicle came to a stop.

Today, Garda Pamela Dunne told Fionnuala O'Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that the victim died from lack of oxygen to her brain due to chest injuries.

She said Byrne went to the garda station the following day and gave consent to access his medical records. He told gardaí he couldn't recall being advised not to drive in 1997.

Gda Dunne said Byrne had claimed he had no condition affecting his peripheral vision or his ability to drive when applying for his driving licence and insurance.

Mr O'Higgins told Judge Ryan that the prosecution did not bring evidence in the subsequent trial to show what progression Usher Syndrome had on his client's eyes since diagnosis in 1997.

Counsel submitted that this was the only accident in 20 years of Byrne driving with the disease.

He told Judge Ryan that his client was “overcome and crushed with remorse” for his actions on the day of the accident.

He said Byrne has been described as “psychologically fragile” and suffered taunting at school from wearing hearing aids.

Mr O'Higgins asked Judge Ryan for maximum leniency, submitting that his client has already been rehabilitated and will not come to garda attention in the future.

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