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Four year sentence for man whose dangerous driving killed his best friend

Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy

A man whose dangerous driving caused the death of his best friend has been sentenced to a prison term of four years with the last two and a half years suspended.

The mother of a man whose death was caused by his best friend's dangerous driving has said she is disgusted with the sentence handed down to him.

Kevin McCarthy (23) was driving at around twice the speed limit when he entered a bend in the road near Brittas, Co. Dublin. He lost control of the car and hit trees and a pole before the car flipped over and travelled 115 metres on its roof.

Thomas Carroll was a back seat passenger in the car. Family and friends, who were present during the hearing today, walked out en masse when Judge Pauline Codd imposed a sentence of four years with two and a half years suspended.

 

Nicola Carroll

McCarthy of Rossfield Park, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty on a previous date at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of dangerous driving causing the death of 21-year-old Mr Carroll on the N81 near Brittas, Co Dublin on May 29, 2014.

McCarthy has 73 previous convictions. They include one for careless driving and offences of driving a car with no NCT, driving without insurance. The majority of his other convictions are for documentary road traffic offences.

McCarthy took the stand to make a tearful apology to the victim's family, telling them: “I'm very very sorry for all that happened”.

Judge Codd said that Mr Carroll’s death was caused by a negligent act as opposed to an intentional act and that the court must assess the degree of criminal recklessness involved. She said that sentencing was not an exercise in vengeance or an act of retaliation.

 

Thomas Carroll with his daughter Kayla

She said that any sentence must contain a sufficient element of general deterrence to the public and McCarthy not to drive at excessive speed. She said McCarthy’s previous record indicated a lack of respect on his part for road traffic law.

She said that McCarthy had acknowledged fully his responsibility and his remorse was great. She said the sense of loss had deeply affected him and noted that he had said he would never forgive himself.

“He now has to live with that guilt and he’ll carry that burden for the rest of his life,” she said.

Speaking outside the courthouse the victim's mother Nicola Carroll said: “We are absolutely disgusted by the justice system in Ireland. A year and a half is simply not enough for our beloved son, brother and daddy to our granddaughter Kayla who will grow up without her daddy.

“Kevin McCarthy will walk free in 18 months and live his life as normal while we will suffer a life sentence.”

McCarthy's sister Sinead McCarthy told the court that she didn't intend to take away from grief of the victim's family but said her brother's life had been ripped apart.

She said her brother “absolutely loved” the victim. Since the crash he had withdrawn from contact with friends and family and locks himself in his room.

She said he disappeared for days and the family found out recently that he was going to the crash scene to talk to the victim.

Judge Codd said she was taking into consideration the impact of McCarthy's action on the victim's family. She said the harrowing and extremely distressing head injuries sustained meant they had to consider having a closed coffin at his funeral.

Additional evidence

Garda Maria Dolan told the sentencing hearing that a paper delivery driver was driving along the road by the Blue Gardenia pub near Brittas around 2.40am in the morning when he came across an upturned car in the middle of the road and four young men who were “hysterical” and asking for help for their friend.

Mr Carroll, a father-of-one, was lying at the scene with massive head injuries. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

McCarthy told gardaí he had been hanging out with his group of friends that evening like they usually did. He said he was driving the group back to Tallaght and Mr Carroll was sitting in the back passenger seat when the car spun out of control into some trees.

It flipped over twice and spun around about 10 times before coming to rest on the wrong side of the road.

McCarthy told gardaí he was travelling at around 100-120 km/h at the time, which he said was the speed limit on the road. However, the court heard the speed limit was 60km/h and this was signposted on the road about 300 metres before the crash site.

“I never went out that night planning on hurting anyone,” McCarthy told gardaí. “Tom was one of my best friends. I miss him terribly.”

McCarthy sat with his head bowed and wiped his eyes several times during the sentence hearing. He wore a necklace with a picture of his friend “to remind him every day”, Gda Dolan said.

Family members of the dead man also wept in court and several had to leave as details of the young man's death were heard in court. A forensic report stated he was partially ejected from the car when it flipped and was dragged along the road.

In victim impact statements read out in court, Mr Carroll's mother, brother and two sisters described the pain of losing their son and brother in such horrific circumstances that they were advised to hold his funeral in a closed casket.

The funeral directors worked for 12 hours to ensure they could see his body and hold his hand one last time, the court heard.

His mother, Nicola Carroll, said she was “distraught” at how he died and often thought of how terrified he must have been in his final moments in the car. She said her son Glen, who was called to the scene by Carroll's friends, was still traumatised by what he saw that night.

The court heard 'Tom' was a devoted father, son and sibling, who was “always laughing” and “had a smile that could light up a room”.

His partner Mairead described her devastation at losing her childhood sweetheart and future husband. She said their daughter, who was three when Mr Carroll was killed, still struggled with his death.

“It's hard bringing up a child alone and harder when I have to answer her little questions about how daddy died and why daddy died,” she wrote.

The court heard McCarthy had not been drinking on the night of the crash. He tested positive for smoking cannabis in the days before the crash but this was not a factor in the incident, Gda Dolan said.

Hugh Harnett SC, defending, said it was a “tragedy” and his client was “hugely remorseful and devastated” at the death of his friend.

He submitted McCarthy had co-operated fully with gardaí and immediately admitted to being the driver. This was significant, as none of the other men in the car gave statements to gardaí, the court heard.

The court heard that gardaí estimated the minimum speed the car could have been travelling at was between 98 and 115 kmph but that this was an underestimation due to the effect the impact with the trees and the pole would have had on velocity.

Garda Dolan agreed that McCarthy's admissions at the scene and his subsequent co-operation were useful and that without them it would have been impossible to have brought a prosecution.

Mr Harnett told the court that McCarthy was a talented footballer in his teens and had obtained a schoolboy scholarship with the Shamrock Rovers football club . A subsequent injury affected his footballing skills and he began experimenting then with alcohol and cannabis.

He said that since the fatal crash he had taken to self medicating with cocaine and Benzodiazepam.

A local shopkeeper gave evidence that McCarthy and the victim were “like brothers” and were always seen laughing and joking together.

Judge Codd said that the aggravating factors in the case were the level of excessive speed and McCarthy's disregard for the other passengers and road users.

She said the factors in mitigation of McCarthy included his guilty plea and admissions, the fact that he remained at the scene of the crash and the effect on him of loosing his best friend.

The accused and his family sobbed throughout most of the hearing including during the handing down of the sentence when the victim's family walked out.