Wednesday 23 January 2019

'Tragic twist of fate' as disqualified hit-and-run driver discovered victim was former classmate

Inset: Karl Robertson
Inset: Karl Robertson

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A hit-and-run driver who knocked down and killed a jogger and then set fire to his van a short distance away has been jailed for five years.

In what was described by the judge as “a tragic twist of fate”, the van driver, Patrick Morgan (28), later realised he knew the deceased, Karl Robertson, when he saw the death reported online.

Mr Robertson (28) had been out jogging just yards from his family home when he was struck by Morgan's van and propelled nearly 20 metres along the road. He died in Beaumont Hospital from extensive head injuries the following day.

Morgan, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Robertson, failing to stop at the scene, failing to offer assistance, and leaving the scene at Hazelwood Drive, Artane on March 8, 2017.

Garda Neil Plunkett told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that after fleeing the scene, Morgan drove the van to a nearby housing estate and set it alight. Morgan came forward to gardai the following day and was arrested.

“There was a fella running, he came out from behind a car and I didn't see him, I couldn't brake and I hit him,” Morgan told gardai.

Morgan admitted setting fire to his van afterwards “out of panic” and said his heart went out to the victim's family. Morgan and Mr Robertson had been classmates in school, the court heard.

Morgan has 47 previous convictions and was the subject of three separate driving disqualifications at the time of this incident.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Robertson's mother said she was angry that her son was left to die on the road so near their home, yet his family were oblivious to this.

“I go to bed each night hoping it will be my last, this family has been destroyed forever and the way Karl was taken is unforgivable,” she said.

She said her son was caring, diligent and loving, adding that his death hasn't sunk in and never will.

“To see him lifeless with bruises on his head, someone who was always so fit and healthy, who didn't drink or smoke,” said the statement, which was read out in court.

The court heard that Mr Robertson's room remains untouched, as his parents cannot bear to enter it.

“He loved our home but we hate it now. He was too good for this world, he was our world,” his mother said in her statement.

Seamus Clarke SC, defending Morgan, said his client made an impulsive decision to leave the scene and to burn out his van due to a guilty conscience. He said Morgan would never forgive himself and felt he deserved what was coming to him.

In sentencing, Judge Martin Nolan said the enduring trauma on the Robertson family would be long lasting and a scar on the rest of their lives.  He said Morgan was driving too fast and should have been able to see the deceased and stop before hitting him.

He said the aggravating factors in the case were speed, the fact Morgan was disqualified, that he left the scene, attempted to destroy the van and that he didn't render assistance to a stricken man.

In mitigation he said he must give Morgan credit for his remorse, the fact he turned himself in and that he was a good father and partner.

“It was a valuable plea because a jury may have had a difficulty inferring circumstances as there were no witnesses,” he said.

He imposed a five year sentence and disqualified Morgan from driving for ten years adding: “He seems to pay little heed to bans.”

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