Driver jailed over couple's death

Michael Harty was almost twice the legal limit when he caused the crash which killed a couple in Limerick.

Michael Harty was almost twice the legal limit when he caused the crash which killed a couple in Limerick.

Thu, Feb 7, 2013, 00:00

A drunk motorist has been jailed for five years and banned from driving for thirty years for causing the death of a Co Limerick couple.

Michael Harty (30) of St Mary’s Terrace, Askeaton, Co Limerick was almost twice the legal alcohol limit when he caused a crash which killed Maurice Hartnett (61) and his 59-year-old wife Margaret at Ardtomin, Askeaton, Co Limerick on July 29th 2009.

The 30-year-old was on the wrong side of the road when his Toyota Rav Jeep collided with Mr and Mrs Hartnett’s Volkswagon Caddy as they were driving to their home in Gurteen, Ballingarry, Co Limerick.

Mrs Hartnett, a mother of six, was found dead at the scene of the accident, which took place shortly after 5.30pm.

Her husband, a tiler, was in cardiac arrest when he was admitted to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick after the crash and was pronounced dead less than a half an hour later.

Mr Harty had denied dangerous driving causing death of the couple but was convicted by a jury at Limerick Circuit Court last month.

At his sentencing hearing today, Elizabeth Hartnett one of the couple’s six children spoke of the devastation and heartbreak of losing both parents so suddenly.

“We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Mam and Dad and they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to us and this will haunt us to the day we die,” she said.

“The vice grip called grief, has taken hold of each and every one of us and we feel locked in our own bodies. It takes our breath away. Our lives have been turned totally upside down since our parents sudden passing and the mental physical and emotional pain of losing them burns deep within each one of us.”

In her victim impact statement Ms Hartnett recalled how the home her family once knew will never be the same again.

“All we are left with are two empty arm chairs and life as we knew it will never be the same again.” Before imposing sentence Judge Moran said it was a heartbreaking case in which there was a “needless loss of life”.

He said the accused man’s capacity to drive was impaired by the amount of alcohol in his system.

During the trial evidence was heard that Mr Harty drank in two pubs in the hours before the crash.

He suffered massive internal bleeding and was “at risk of dying” when he was admitted to the Mid Western Regional hospital in Limerick.

Gardai had requested a blood alcohol test be carried out but this was refused by doctors because of his serious medical condition.

Mr Harty’s hospital records which included a laboratory report were allowed as evidence to prove his alcohol level on the day of the crash.

A toxicology test carried showed he had 153.9 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The legal alcohol limit for driving at the time was 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

In the course of legal argument concerning the admissibility of this evidence, it was accepted by the prosecution that there was no consent from the accused to the obtaining of the lab report.

However, Judge Moran ruled that the result of the blood test and the lab report was admissible on the basis there was no breach of Mr Harty’s constitutional right to privacy and that gardaí could obtain such a report in the course of the investigation.

Defence Counsel Anthony Sammon (SC) indicated yesterday that the judgement will form the core of element of an appeal.