When a drunk driver, who killed an elderly pedestrian and injured two gardaí in the line of duty walked out of Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month with 240 hours community service in lieu of a four-year prison sentence, under his belt, there was outrage.
And rightly so.
Father-of-two Adrian Nestor (44), from Keamsella, Kilcolgan, Galway, was also disqualified from driving for four years having pleaded guilty the previous November to causing the death of Liam McDonnell (66) and causing serious bodily harm to Garda Sharon Casserly by driving dangerously near Ardrahan in the early hours of February 1, 2016.
He also pleaded guilty to driving while drunk and having a blood/ alcohol reading of 272 mgs of alcohol per 100mls of blood at the time of the fatal collision.
The story, from beginning to end, holds all the elements of a tragedy, but one that was caused by the selfish and inexplicable actions of a single man.
On that fateful night a resident had left a nursing home wearing black clothing only.
Staff were concerned for the man’s safety.
They rang the Gardaí.
Two garda cars subsequently set out to look for Mr McDonnell and just over 30 minutes later, Garda Casserly and Garda Peter Murtagh, who were in one of the patrol cars, located the man down on his hands and knees.
The Gardaí pulled the patrol car in on the hard shoulder and went to the aid of Mr McDonnell who appeared intoxicated.
The man resisted arrest but the Gardaí eventually coaxed him into the vehicle and as they were doing so a silver Audi car, being driven by Adrian Nestor hit the patrol car with devastating consequences.
We were told that the force of the impact caused Mr McDonnell’s death and his body was found in a nearby field.
Garda Casserly received severe injuries while Garda Murtagh sustained a broken leg, a large cut to his head and damage to his knees and ankles.
Nestor, meanwhile sustained a minor head injury in the collision and was later arrested.
He said he attended a wake near Ardrahan prior to the crash.
Because of her injuries Garda Casserly had to cancel her wedding day which was due to take place the following June and her career prospects are now on hold.
Garda Murtagh, too, sustained serious injuries and now feels that he failed in his duty to protect Mr McDonnell that night.
All the pain, anguish, guilt and remorse from people going about their work in the dead of the night trying to protect the public from people just like Adrian Nestor.
And, still it happened.
It wouldn’t have happened, though, if the Galway man had not drank alcohol and then driven his car, but instead took responsibility for himself, the car he was driving and the other road users that night.
But, he didn’t.
The presiding Judge said Nestor’s expression of remorse during proceedings was genuine. He also stated he had a previous good record.
In the past, people have been jailed for driving without insurance, some have even been imprisoned for non payment of fines, and that includes the TV licence, yet here we are in 2018 and a relatively young man - who should have known better - avoids a prison sentence for mowing down three people and killing one of them after driving his car with drink taken.
Justice must be done, or at the very least seen to be done.
But, in this case, justice has not been done, nor indeed has it been seen to be done.
We have all come to the moral realisation, rightly or wrongly, that the removal of a person’s freedom, where they have committed a serious crime, is the ultimate punishment.
Prison we are told is where that freedom ends, so it is this that brings a sense of justice, perhaps even closure...
Justice can never be served when a drink driver who kills a vulnerable man and severely injuries two gardaí in the line of duty walks away with 240 hours community service.
It is just not good enough.
This injustice is not much consolation, either, to the thousands of families across this island who have lost loved ones to drink driving.
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