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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 23 August, 2019
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Man who knocked down and killed toddler after vodka and cocaine binge jailed for five years

Two year old Vanessa Siatka died in what the trial judge called the worst case of dangerous driving he’d ever seen.

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A MAN WHO killed a two-year-old girl in a hit-and-run incident in the Phoenix Park 0n 6 April 2015 has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with the final two years suspended.

Judge Patrick McCartan delivered the sentence at the Criminal Courts of Justice this afternoon, and said the case of dangerous driving was the worst he had ever seen.

Ciaran Lane (25) of Ashington Avenue on Dublin’s Navan Road had pleaded guilty in February to dangerous driving causing the death of Vanessa Siatka on Easter Monday last year.

A detailed breakdown of the events of that day were relayed in court.

Garda Owen O’Doherty of Cabra Garda Station said that the incident in question happened at 6.30pm at the Ratra Roundabout in the Phoenix Park.

Vanessa, who was 23 months old at the time, was standing next to her mother Katarzyna’s parked car at the first exit of the roundabout when Lane’s green Toyota Corolla exited the roundabout at high speed.

The car hit Vanessa and dragged her for some metres, he said. The car then exited the scene at speed.

Vanessa died from severe traumatic injuries, particularly to the head, which were not conducive to life.

Lane, who had been been driving with two friends, subsequently handed himself into Cabra Garda Station at 7.05pm. He claimed that he had not stopped, though his friends had told him to, as he had panicked in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

He did not become aware that Vanessa had died until his second interview with gardaí, a fact that impacted him greatly, Gda O’Doherty said, who in his own words described that news as hitting Lane “like a ton of bricks”.

Cocaine

During the course of the sentencing hearing, evidence was given that Lane had consumed a litre of vodka and two grams of cocaine before taking to the roads that day.

Earlier in the afternoon, he was seen pulling doughnuts in the green 2002 Toyota Corolla and performing handbrake turns into parking spaces. His car encountered another car just prior to the accident in the Phoenix Park where Lane was driving on the wrong side of the road at speed, and a collision was narrowly avoided.

He was also driving without insurance.

O’Doherty stressed that Lane had at all times been co-operative with gardaí and given truthful answers to all questions.

The accident had greatly affected him, not least because he has a son of his own of the same age as Vanessa.

Lane said during his garda interviews:

I know what I done, I want to apologise. I know I’m guilty, I have to live with it. I wanted to go to college, I’m sorry for what I did. I fucked up and my son has to live with what I did, my mother has to listen to people saying horrible things about me.

A nightmare

Vanessa’s mother Katarzyna was not present in court, however her victim impact statement was read out by prosecuting barrister Antonia Boyle. She and her husband are Polish, having lived in Ireland for some 12 years.

“I want to make this statement on behalf of my husband, Lukasz Siatka, and myself.

When we became pregnant with Vanessa it was like a present from God. The moment we saw her we fell in love with her.
She was just perfect with beautiful blue eyes, a perfect pretty face.
Every day with Vanessa was new, she learned new things, and we learned from her too.

“We had a very happy home and a very happy life. Vanessa made so many new friends, she was a very happy and active child. She loved to go swimming, to the park or playground to play with other children.

Every day was filled with activity and happiness for all of us.
Easter Monday was a beautiful sunny day in Dublin but we could never have imagined what would happen that evening.
What started out as a plan to spend my evening with Vanessa in the Phoenix Park ended in a nightmare.
One moment we were happy, playing and enjoying ourselves, the next moment I hear the loud music, a loud engine and everything just happened so quickly.
My baby was taken away from me. For me that was the moment time and my heart stopped.

“The moment the car hit Vanessa it not only swept her away physically it also took her away from us.

All I could do was run to my baby. I spoke to her, I told her I loved her and everything would be ok, Daddy was on the way.
As she lay on the road a small tear came from her eye and I knew in my heart that this was her last “goodbye Mammy”.
Our hearts were shattered. Life stopped. Without Vanessa we will never be the same.
Our hearts will always be broken because a part of us died with Vanessa.

“People keep saying ‘time is a healer’. It’s not. Our life now is empty. We visit Vanessa’s grave every day to pray. What else can we do?

“She will always be in our memories but we can never see or hold her again. Only our faith and our love and our angel Vanessa looking over us, helps us to exist.

We hope that Vanessa’s death will be a strong message to everyone to never ever drink or take drugs when driving.

Judgement

In his ruling, Judge Patrick McCartan said that Vanessa’s death could “only be considered as a terrible tragedy”.

“This was a horrible loss of young innocent life. It was a tragedy. It was inevitable because of the way Ciaran Lane had been driving, but it was entirely avoidable,” he said.

Nothing he could do could adequately redress the wrong done to Vanessa’s family, he said.

“Even if the court was to impose the maximum penalty (which is 10 years), it would not be enough.

This driver was in no position to consider the safety of others. He set out to have an afternoon of his own enjoyment with his friends, with no regard to others.

Listening to blaring music, distracted by his friends, he careered down that road.

“Vanessa had no chance,” he said, adding that the case was “as bad a case of dangerous driving as any I have considered”.

The only mitigating circumstance is that it actually occurred on the road, as opposed to off it.

Lane has eight previous convictions, including for dangerous driving and driving without a licence. However, this would be his first spell in prison.

“He has a history, he knows the consequences of it, he’s been put off the road before,” said Judge McCartan.

The crime is all the more inexcusable in that he was a father of a child of the same age. He knew what was at stake.

The judge said that he had to have regard to Lane’s genuine remorse, his youth, his good family, the fact that he is a father, and that he entered an early guilty plea thus “sparing Vanessa’s family an even more upsetting trial”.

Judge McCartan then sentenced Lane to seven years’ imprisonment with the final two years suspended, on condition that he remain drug and alcohol free.

Read: Car ‘driving erratically’ before 2-year-old killed in Phoenix Park hit and run

Read: Young boy awarded €20,000 after shower door shattered on him at Dublin gym

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