Wednesday 29 January 2020

'Justice was not done' - devastated mother of drink-driving victim hits out at five-year jail sentence

Tracey Melia who was killed in a road traffic accident in Claregalway, Galway
Tracey Melia who was killed in a road traffic accident in Claregalway, Galway
Patricia Melia on Ireland AM/TV3
Vanessa Siatka, who was knocked down and killed just before her second birthday

Meadhbh McGrath

The grieving mother of a young woman killed by a drink driver has said her “heart was ripped from her chest” when the man responsible was sentenced to just five years jail time.

Patricia Melia said the sentences imposed on many drink-drivers were too lenient and that “justice was not done” for her daughter Tracey.

The heart-broken mum appeared on TV3’s Ireland AM to discuss the tragedy a day after the drink and drug driver Ciaran Lane (25) was jailed for five years for killing toddler Vanessa Siatka in the Phoenix Park.

Tracey (24) was walking home from a wedding celebration with her boyfriend John McDonough just after midnight on May 10 last year when they were both struck by a neighbour’s car along the N17 in Claregalway, Co Galway.

Driver Stephen Flaherty (21) fled the scene, and later admitted to drinking up to 15 pints that evening.

Patricia explained that she and her husband had also attended the wedding party last May, but that Tracey and her boyfriend had left before them.

“Tracey had decided earlier on that she was going to walk home because she was working the next day.

“So herself and her boyfriend started walking home – we live exactly a mile from where the function was,” she recalled.

Patricia Melia on Ireland AM/TV3
Patricia Melia on Ireland AM/TV3

Patricia learned that the couple had heard the car speeding towards them and attempted to climb to safety.

“They were about 330m down the road and John had the flashlight on his mobile phone and they could hear a car coming, they knew he was going really fast.

“They went up on the brink on the side of the road and the car actually followed them,” she said.

Read more: Heartbroken mum of toddler killed in hit-and-run in Phoenix Park: 'I knew it was her last goodbye'

Vanessa Siatka, who was knocked down and killed just before her second birthday
Vanessa Siatka, who was knocked down and killed just before her second birthday

The devastated mum continued to describe the couple’s efforts to keep one another from harm.

“They actually bear-hugged each other. John was that much bigger than Tracey and he was trying to protect her and she was trying to protect him.

“So the car came up on the verge of the road before it hit them, John was left unconscious, thrown, and we don’t know if Tracey was carried or thrown 29 metres.”

Tracey was killed instantly, and her boyfriend John was badly injured following the crash but survived.

“It’s like a living nightmare for him, he can’t get it out of his head. His partner of five years is gone,” Patricia added.

Last week, the driver was sentenced to five years in prison with the last year suspended, and was banned from driving for 20 years.

Patricia argued that the sentence was unacceptable and said the court proceedings had forced her to relive the tragedy.

“I felt my heart was ripped right from my chest again and that Tracey’s life meant nothing. Justice was not done,” she said.

She was joined on the programme by Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs for AA Ireland, as they appealed to people not to get behind the wheel after drinking under any circumstances.

“I’m sad that we’re talking about this in 2016. I thought people would have got a grip of it by now not to drink and drive,” said Patricia.

“It was one message that I wanted to get through from Tracey leaving us – that none of her friends or family who had taken drink would ever get into a car or ever go with anyone who’s taken a drink."

She added that it was equally important not to put pressure on those who don't want to drink.

“If somebody’s with you on a night out who really doesn’t want to drink, don’t ridicule that person, let them and say, ‘Well done’.

“What I would like is a mandatory 10-year sentence brought in for drink-driving.”

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News