25 May 2022

Longford man jailed for dangerous driving causing death of 'unique, kindhearted and hero' son

Longford man jailed for dangerous driving causing death of 'unique,  kindhearted and hero' son

Longford man jailed for dangerous driving causing death of 'unique, kindhearted and hero' son

A father of four who left a man to die on the side of a road after hitting him with a dangerously defective vehicle has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

Martin McDonagh (28) of 82 Grian Ard, Longford, previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Craig McDermott while the 32 year-old had been walking along a stretch of the main N4 at Deerpark, Newtownforbes, Co Longford on June 15, 2018.

Mr McDermott was fatally injured as he walked along the hard shoulder of the carriageway with a friend close to midnight when he was struck by the accused who then left the scene of the incident.

A PSV Inspector’s report showed that the brakes on Mr McDonagh’s vehicle were dangerously defective with a seriously worn tyre also being found. 

The accused has acknowledged that he was aware that the brakes were defective, but he has refused to accept that the defective brakes were a contributory factor in the fatal accident.

The court heard Mr McDonagh had consumed three pints of alcohol on the night of the incident and was distracted at the wheel as he nibbled on takeaway food.

During the course of a garda investigation, Mr McDonagh initially believed he had struck a cow or bike, an assertion Judge Keenan Johnson took issue with.

“Given the extent of the damage to his car, it is difficult to accept that he couldn’t but have been aware of the high probability that the impact was a pedestrian,” he said.

When the accused went to a friend’s house after the incident, he said that he had been drinking and was aware that he had been involved in a serious accident. He also said he was aware he needed to contact the Gardaí but did not do so until the next day.

“It seems clear from the actions of the accused in the immediate aftermath of the collision that he was endeavouring to minimise and possibly avoid responsibility,” said Judge Johnson.

A victim impact statement delivered by Mr McDermott’s mother, Maureen McDermott, told of how the events of June 16, 2018, had been "the worst day of our lives and will live with us forever".

Her son, she said, was her best friend - "unique and kindhearted" - and "his sister's protective big brother; he was her hero".

“We've had so many amazing times together that we will cherish forever," said Mrs McDermott.

Judge Johnson said Mr McDonagh’s refusal to give a urine or blood sample for analysis after contacting gardaí the morning after the incident was a further aggravating factor as it did not enable detectives to establish his level of sobriety at the time of the incident.

He said given the maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death carried a ten year prison term, the level of offending in the case lay in the “upper end of the upper range” and thereby carried a headline sentence of nine years.

A psychological report was handed in at today’s sentencing hearing at Longford Circuit Criminal Court which indicated Mr McDonagh’s propensity to abuse drugs and alcohol was the most pertinent factors impacting on his poor judgement and behaviour to date.

He said in light of Mr McDonagh’s guilty plea, expression of remorse, separation from his family and difficult upbringing, he would be reducing the sentence to that of seven years.

Judge Johnson suspended the final 18 months for five years on the condition the accused enter into a €500 bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for five years post release, to submit himself to the probation services six months prior to his release and 18 months post release and to remain free of illicit drugs while in prison and for the duration of the suspended sentence.

He also banned Mr McDonagh from driving for a period of 30 years.

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