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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Teenager who fled the scene after he knocked down toddler jailed for four years

Nathan O’Reilly (17) was also given a twenty-year driving disqualification.

 Cork Circuit Criminal Court
Cork Circuit Criminal Court
Image: Google Street View

A TEENAGER WHO fled the scene after he knocked down a toddler who was left fighting for his life has been jailed for four years. 

The Judge at Cork Circuit Criminal Court ordered that Nathan O’Reilly (17) of Ballinure Place in Mahon, Cork city be named in spite of his juvenile status. 

He canvassed the opinion of the mother of the child. She said that it would be in the public interest for the community to know the identity of the accused given the twenty-year driving disqualification handed down to O’Reilly by the courts.

Garda Darren Reidy told the court that on the 25 March last at 3.40pm O’Reilly was driving a Blue Mazda car bought via Facebook for €100. The car was without insurance, tax or an NCT and O’Reilly was driving without a licence. 

He said O’Reilly drove the vehicle down Ballinure Place to Skehard Road in Cork city where he picked up two passengers at the Holy Cross Church. He stopped the car at Castlemeadows in Mahon and witnesses heard a revving of the vehicle and a burning of tyres for several minutes. 

A third passenger got in the car and the vehicle subsequently knocked down a two-year-old boy at Castlemeadows in Mahon in Cork.

Detective Garda Reidy said that at one point the car was on two wheels and they were “burning rubber. “

The young boy was propelled in to the air. The occupants of the car fled the scene and the emergency services were called. 

The child was found to be unconscious but breathing. He was taken to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where he was placed in an induced coma. The child suffered a serious brain injury. 

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain was told that the child had suffered a closed head injury but was walking again. He has made a remarkable recovery but given his young age it will be several years before the final prognosis is known. 

He was hospitalised at Temple Street Children’s Hospital for seven weeks for treatment for a head injury and other injuries. He has also spent time in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire.

‘I screamed for help’

In a moving victim impact statement, his mother said they were “shocked that they left my baby to die on the side of the road”. 

“On the 25th of March, this year life as we knew it and our world changed forever. We were just getting ready so [the child] was playing football in the garden with his cousin. I just popped in to the conservatory to get my coat.  My neighbour was standing at the door. 

“Someone shouted [the child] was knocked down. I ran out but I couldn’t see the child or any car. I just looked down at my feet and the child was lying there lifeless and bleeding from the head. I screamed for help. 

“I will never forget the gut-wrenching feeling that I knew something very serious was wrong. We feared for our little boy whose life was hanging by a thread as minutes seemed like hours waiting. 

“Once the ambulance had been called. I asked who had knocked him down and to my dismay was told they didn’t stop they kept driving at high speed on exiting the estate.

The child went by ambulance to the CUH where (his Dad) and I watched helplessly while he had a seizure. His eyes rolled in his head and he was frothing from the mouth. He was resuscitated in front of us. Doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to save his life, unlike the occupants of the car that knocked him down who failed even to raise the alarm. All they cared about was not getting caught.

His mother said that her precious son was put on life support and transferred by special ambulance to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

She and her husband travelled to Dublin with “a feeling of terror.” Doctors subsequently informed them the toddler had suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, a fractured hip and a collapsed lung, a bleed on the brain and a diffuse axon brain injury. 

The mother said that their “perfect happy healthy little boy would have to fight the bravest battle of his tender age of two and eight months.”

The woman said the incident with her son made national news and her children were being asked in school if their brother had died. 

All of their extended family made the six-hour road trip from Dublin to Cork every week to be at the toddler’s bedside.

The mother said that her son incurred a permanent traumatic brain injury which he will suffer with for the rest of his life.

He suffers with his speech, his processing is slower, his understanding of things isn’t as it should be. He is too young for neuro assessment but he could have learning difficulties and an intellectual disability. The family was told he would probably stay dependent on them for the rest of his life. 

The woman said they didn’t feel safe in their home. They also face a constant round of medical appointments. She thanked doctors, gardaí and the community for their support in the wake of the tragedy.

‘inexplicable’

O’Reilly was charged with dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to the toddler after he was arrested at his home the day after the hit and run. The car was recovered a short distance from the accident. It was found to be in an unroadworthy condition. 

O’Reilly was also charged with driving a dangerously defective vehicle and with failing to stop, failing to keep his vehicle at the scene of an incident and failing to report the incident to gardaí.

He was charged with a series of other motoring offences including driving without a licence, failing to produce a driving licence, driving without insurance and failing to produce a certificate of insurance.

He was also charged with possessing stolen property found in the boot of the car, a skill saw, a plane, an angle grinder and a 110-volt transformer. He pleaded guilty to all of the charges. 

Siobhan Lankford, SC, representing O’Reilly asked the court to consider his early guilty plea and his relatively young age. Her client comes from a difficult background and suffers from intellectual challenges. He is without previous convictions. He has expressed remorse for his actions. 

Judge O’Donnabhain said that it was “inexplicable” that O’Reilly had driven away from the scene leaving a child knocked down on the side of the road. 

He jailed him for four years and said that O’Reilly was “running wild” before he entered Oberstown. He disqualified him from driving for twenty years.

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About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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