Early release of man imprisoned for dangerous driving causing death challenged


The DPP has brought a High Court challenge to a judge's decision to release a Dublin architect who had served one year of a four-year sentence imposed for dangerous driving causing the death of a woman in Tallaght. The judge suspended the remaining three years.

Mr Justice Barr was told yesterday that inquiries are being carried out as to why gardai and the DPP were not told that Mr Philip Sheedy (31) had been released.

The judge gave leave to the DPP to apply, by way of judicial review, for an order quashing the decision of the former Circuit Court Judge Cyril Kelly (now a High Court judge), to suspend the balance of a four-year sentence imposed on Mr Sheedy, of Coolmine Mews, Clonsilla, Dublin.

Mr Sheedy was prosecuted on charges of dangerous driving causing the death of Ms Anne Ryan, at the Glenview roundabout, Tallaght by-pass, Dublin, on March 15th, 1996. He was also charged with driving with excess alcohol.

In court yesterday Mr Edward Comyn SC, for the DPP, said Mr Sheedy had on October 20th, 1997, entered a plea of guilty and received a four-year sentence from Judge Joseph Mathews at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Judge Mathews also disqualified Mr Sheedy from driving for 12 years, but gave liberty to review the sentence on October 20th, 1999. On November 6th, 1997, the matter came before Judge Mathews again when an application was made on Mr Sheedy's behalf to vacate the part of the order which set October 20th, 1999, as a review date. The judge granted the application.

Mr Comyn said the matter was listed before Judge Cyril Kelly in the Circuit Court on November 12th, 1998. "How it came to be listed or why has not yet been satisfactorily discovered," he said.

Mr Comyn said Judge Kelly purported, as it were, to review the sentence, remitted what was left and Mr Sheedy was released.

Counsel said no proper notice of the Circuit Court hearing had been given to the DPP or to gardai. It appeared a clerk in the Chief State Solicitor's office saw a listing for the matter and brought the file to court but did not know for what purpose.

There was no professional representation for the DPP at the hearing before Judge Kelly.

It was only recently that gardai had learned of the matter from the widower of the victim, and it was only in the last few weeks the DPP had become aware of the matter.

Mr Comyn said the DPP's contention was that once the review date was removed the four-year sentence should be served. No judge of equal rank to Judge Mathews could interfere with that decision. Mr Sheedy should either have decided to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal or gone to the High Court to seek a judicial review, he submitted.

Mr Justice Barr said it appeared Mr Sheedy had had the benefit of a suspension of sentence which was never intended.

Mr Comyn said the import of Judge Mathews' decision to vacate the review was that Mr Sheehy was meant to serve a four-year sentence, but he had served only one year. The case had caused considerable distress to the family of the dead woman.

In an affidavit, Mr Brian McCreevy, a senior legal clerk in the Chief State Solicitor's office, said Mr Sheedy had been represented by counsel before Judge Kelly, who ordered the balance of the sentence to be suspended on Mr Sheedy's entering a bond to be of good behaviour for three years.