Driver who killed cyclist has sentence increased

Unlicenced driver Christopher Coleman (27) ‘ploughed into’ Eugene Maher (62)

Christopher Coleman: jailed for dangerous driving causing the death of Eugene Maher

Christopher Coleman: jailed for dangerous driving causing the death of Eugene Maher

 

An unlicensed driver who “ploughed into” a 62-year-old cyclist – killing him - and drove away has has been given an extra nine months in jail following an appeal by prosecutors.

Christopher Coleman (27), of Reuben Street in Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Eugene Maher (62) at Clontarf Road, Dublin on June 30th, 2015.

Coleman also admitted leaving the scene of the crash and driving without insurance.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment by Judge Melanie Greally on June 23rd last and was also disqualified from driving for 15 years.

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully sought a review of Coleman’s sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

The Court of Appeal resentenced Coleman on Thursday to six years imprisonment with the final two years and nine months suspended. The three-judge court effectively increased his jail time by nine months.

Counsel for the DPP, Eilis Brennan, told the three-judge court that the incident occurred at 6.30pm on “one of those all too rare sunny evenings in June”. There were many pedestrians and a lot of slow-moving traffic on the road at that time.

‘Prime of his life’

Ms Brennan said the deceased, Mr Maher, was a man “in the prime of his life” going on his daily cycle. As he was crossing the pedestrian lights, which were in his favour, a car came out of nowhere and “ploughed into him”, she said.

The car did not belong to Coleman, the court heard. It had been driven by his friend to the beach and Coleman drove it back because he had not been drinking.

Ms Brennan said that as far back as the Yacht Bar and Restaurant, the car had been seen driving dangerously, at speed and on the wrong side of the road. Witnesses said people were hanging out of the window interacting with another car.

Ms Brennan said the car was gauged to be travelling at speeds between 72 and 79km/h in a 50km/h zone. She said the car crashed into Mr Maher, somebody “popped out”, took a look at the man on the ground, got back into the car and the car drove away. Bystanders were saying “don’t drive off” and other drivers were flashing their lights, Ms Brennan said.

The car was found abandoned nearby in Marino. A bus driver encountered five men “very anxious” to get on the bus.

Gardaí ­were able to identify all five people who got on the bus. They got addresses for the people in Dublin and an additional address for them in Wexford.

On July 4th, a solicitor made contact for all five men indicating that they would come forward.

‘Deep loss’

Ms Brennan said the body of Mr Maher had been lying in the morgue for some days and could not be released until the driver was located because, in a prosecution, the driver would have the right to examine the body. She said it was significant additional anguish for the Maher family. She said Mr Maher was an “extraordinary healthy and fit” 62-year-old. His wife, two children and a number of grandchildren were left with a “deep loss”. He ran a business with his wife which closed as a result of his death.

She said Coleman had 15 previous convictions including three driving bans. At the time of this incident he had been disqualified from driving.

Ms Brennan submitted that the sentencing judge’s starting point of four years was too low.

Ms Brennan submitted that not enough weight was given to the public interest in deterring this kind of driving and the behaviour afterwards. She said society had an interest in deterring these kinds of offences and sending out a message that anybody who drives in these circumstances would be subject to the rigours of the law.

Giving judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the headline sentence was too low given the aggravating factors: the speed, the breaking of the red light, driving while disqualified and leaving the scene.

The appropriate headline sentence was six years not four, the court held. In view of the “exceptional mitigation” in Coleman’s case, the court suspended the final two years and nine months.

Mr Justice Sheehan said Coleman had 15 previous convictions, with at least 10 for road traffic offences. He had no previous convictions for dangerous driving. He had never held a licence and has been disqualified on three separate occasions since 2010.

The 15-year disqualification remained in place.