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oap ‘panicked’ Taxi driver jailed for four years after doctor dies in hit and run


Denis McSweeney of 206 Pouaduff Road, Ballyphehane, Cork pictured at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. (Pic: Cork Courts Limited)

Denis McSweeney of 206 Pouaduff Road, Ballyphehane, Cork pictured at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. (Pic: Cork Courts Limited)

Denis McSweeney of 206 Pouaduff Road, Ballyphehane, Cork pictured at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. (Pic: Cork Courts Limited)

A RETIRED taxi driver was jailed for four years for his "callousness" in driving away from the scene of an accident in which an eminent psychiatrist suffered fatal injuries.

Denis McSweeney (75) of Pouladuff Road in Cork was jailed as a judge was told he had "panicked" and left the scene at the Airport Road after Dr Martin Lawlor (49) had been struck by his taxi while walking back to his hotel.

Judge Sean O'Donnabháin rejected the explanation at Cork Circuit Criminal Court - and said leaving the scene of such an accident was tantamount to "callousness".

The Lawlor family told the former taxi driver they would never forgive him for leaving the doctor dying on the roadside.

Dr Lawlor was described as a man of "considerable compassion" and an "exemplar of his profession" who tried to assist vulnerable people.

Judge O’Donnabháin said that driving away from the scene of a hit and run was fundamentally wrong and that McSweeney was "fully aware" he had hit a pedestrian.

He acknowledged mitigating factors in the case including the guilty plea, the remorse of the defendant, the lack of previous convictions and the voluntary surrender of his driver licence.

He jailed McSweeney, a former milkman, for five years but agreed to suspend the final year of the sentence.

The judge also disqualified him from driving for 20 years.

McSweeney had pleaded guilty to failing to stop his vehicle after an incident, failing to keep his vehicle at the scene of an accident, failing to report a traffic incident to gardaí and failing to give appropriate information to gardaí.

All the charges related to a collision on the Airport Road, Cork on December 15, 2018.

Garda Brid Norris said Dr Lawlor was walking along the road in poor weather conditions towards his hotel when he was hit by a taxi driven by the defendant.

The stretch of road was without street lighting and that there was heavy rain and dense fog.

McSweeney later told gardaí that he panicked and left the scene without stopping. He initially claimed that he thought he may have hit an animal.

Helen Murphy Lawlor, wife of the deceased, delivered her victim impact statement via video link from her home in Manchester.

Mr Lawlor, who was a native of Tralee, Co Kerry, lived in Manchester but travelled to Ireland for work.

"Instead of Martin coming through the door at 9.30am, I got a phone call from his brother John to let me know that Martin had been knocked down and killed by a car while walking towards Cork Airport," she said.

"Jennifer lost her father at 18, Samuel aged 14 and Rebecca was only 12 years of age. He is forever absent from the happy times. Being unable to say goodbye was hard and cruel. For such a good and caring man to be left to die on the road alone and the driver left the scene seemingly without compassion or concern is very difficult for us to comprehend."

Dr Susan Lawlor, a sister of the deceased, hailed her brother as a champion of mental health.

She said Dr Lawlor "went above and beyond what was asked of him” professionally and was a kind and loving man.

Dr Lawlor was the director of the Centre for Recovery and Social Inclusion in Ireland.

He was also the founder of State of Mind Ireland along with his sister, Dr Susan Lawlor.

He particularly advocated for increased awareness of the importance of mental health within sports and youth clubs.

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Online Editors