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Unlicensed driver who knocked down and killed cyclist has prison sentence increased

The car had been seen driving dangerously, at a high speed and on the wrong side of the road.

The late Eugene Maher
The late Eugene Maher

AN UNLICENSED DRIVER who “ploughed into” a 62-year-old cyclist – killing him – and drove away has been given an extra nine months in jail following an appeal by prosecutors.

Christopher Coleman (27), of Reuben Street, in the capital, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Eugene Maher (62) at Clontarf Road, Dublin on 30 June 2015. Coleman also admitted leaving the scene of the crash and driving without insurance.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment by Judge Melanie Greally on 23 June last and was also disqualified from driving for 15 years.

The DPP successfully sought a review of Coleman’s sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

The Court of Appeal resentenced Coleman today to six years imprisonment with the final two years and nine months suspended. The three-judge court effectively increased his jail time by nine months.

Counsel for the DPP, Eilis Brennan BL, told the three-judge court that the incident occurred at 6.30pm on “one of those all too rare sunny evenings in June”. There were many pedestrians and a lot of slow-moving traffic on the road at that time.

Brennan said the deceased was a 62-year-old man “in the prime of his life” going on his daily cycle. As he was crossing the pedestrian lights, which were in his favour, a car came out of nowhere and “ploughed into him”, she said.

The car did not belong to Coleman, the court heard. It had been driven by his friend to the beach and Coleman drove it back because he had not been drinking.

Brennan said that as far back as the Yacht Bar and Restaurant, the car had been seen driving dangerously, at speed and on the wrong side of the road. Witnesses said people were hanging out of the window interacting with another car.

Brennan said the car was gauged to be travelling at speeds between 72 and 79 km/hr in a 50km/hr zone.

Speeding

She said the car crashed into Maher, somebody “popped out”, took a look at the man on the ground, got back into the car and the car drove away. Bystanders, in response to this, were saying “don’t drive off” and other drivers were flashing their lights, Brennan said.

The car was found abandoned nearby in Marino. A bus driver encountered five men “very anxious” to get on the bus.

The gardaí were able to identify all five people who got on the bus. They got addresses for the people in Dublin and an additional address for them in Wexford.

On 4 July , a solicitor made contact for all five men indicating that they would come forward.

Brennan said the body of Maher had been lying in the morgue for some days and could not be released until the driver was located because, in a prosecution, the driver would have the right to examine the body. She said it was significant additional anguish for the Maher family.

She said the deceased was an “extraordinary healthy and fit” 62-year-old. His wife, two kids and a number of grandchildren were left with a “deep loss”. He ran a business with his wife which closed as a result of his death.

She said Coleman had 15 previous convictions including three driving bans. At the time of this incident he had been disqualified from driving.

Ms Brennan submitted that the sentencing judge’s starting point of four years was too low.

What appeared to have influenced the sentencing judge, Ms Brennan said, was that there hadn’t been multiple deaths and drink was not a factor. But the sentencing judge failed to look at some of the other “extremely aggravating” factors, she submitted.

She said Coleman had been disqualified from driving before. He had been sanctioned but hadn’t taken that sanction seriously.

Coleman had no license, which was “at least as aggravating” as having drink on board. He had never “demonstrated a capacity to control a car,” she said.

There was evidence of erratic driving as far back as the Yacht, erratic driving at the scene and erratic driving when Coleman drove away.

Furthermore, there was a deliberate attempt to evade detection. She said Coleman came forward after all five men had been identified and the gardaí came to locate them.

Ms Brennan submitted that not enough weight was given to the public interest in deterring this kind of driving and the behaviour afterwards.

She said society had an interest in deterring these kinds of offences and sending out a message that anybody who drives in these circumstances would be subject to the rigours of the law.

Read: Children’s self-portraits on display in Merrion Square tomorrow >

Read: Teenagers shoot 14-year-old girl in the head and leave her in a ditch for iPod and $55 >

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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