Disqualified driver who crashed overloaded, uninsured, dangerous car while drunk has sentence cut
A disqualified driver who was “two-and-a-half times over the limit” when he crashed an uninsured, unroadworthy and overloaded car has successfully appealed his 10 year prison sentence for dangerous driving causing death.
Brian McDonagh (25), of Toombeola, Roundstone, Connemara, had pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of his friend Thomas McDonagh (19) in a single-vehicle incident near Kylemore, Connemara on February 2, 2014. He was also convicted of driving with no insurance.
Judge Rory McCabe sentenced McDonagh to 10 years imprisonment with the final two suspended on July 7, 2015 and disqualified him from driving for 20 years. The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death is 10 years imprisonment.
McDonagh successfully appealed his sentence on Friday, and he was accordingly resentenced to eight years imprisonment with the final two suspended.
Giving judgment, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said lawyers on either side were unable to refer to another dangerous driving case where the maximum sentence had been imposed.
Headline sentences of even eight years seemed “somewhat unusual” from academic study, the judge said and he noted that the Circuit Court judge did not have his attention drawn to comparator cases.
McDonagh's barrister, Vincent Heneghan BL, had said he accepted the circumstances of the case were “not good” but submitted that the sentencing judge erred in imposing the maximum 10 year sentence.
The Court of Appeal agreed with Mr Heneghan that a psychiatric report which found McDonagh to have been significantly remorseful did not appear to have been given “any consideration” by the sentencing judge.
Furthermore, since he had been imprisoned, McDonagh has been a model prisoner and there was evidence that he had made progress in dealing with his alcohol problem.
Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the Court of Appeal was satisfied that McDonagh's sentence was “out of line” with cases submitted and was “excessive”.
The judge added that McDonagh's driving disqualification would have serious consequences for him into the future.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sinead Gleeson BL, had said there were “a lot” of aggravating factors in this case which distinguished it from others.
McDonagh had been on a pub crawl, Ms Gleeson said and was two-and-a-half times over the limit.
He had been disqualified from driving at the time and had no insurance. She said the car was not roadworthy as it had no valid NCT and was overloaded with six people.
Ms Gleeson said McDonagh was using the handbrake to slow down and navigate bends.
The evening had been described as “bleak”and there was a single white line on the road.
She said McDonagh was uncooperative at the scene and had not admitted to being the driver.
Subsequently, McDonagh was arrested and interviewed. He gave a “no comment interview”, Ms Gleeson said but provided a statement in which he admitted to being the driver after that fact had been determined, she said.
When gardaí had come to take a blood sample from him in hospital, he told them 'you won't catch me this time,' Ms Gleeson said.
McDonagh had 14 previous convictions including 11 for road traffic matters and he was subsequently convicted for driving while disqualified for an offence committed two months after the fatal crash, Ms Gleeson said.
McDonagh was required by the Court of Appeal to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period. When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said “yes”.