Driver who drank eight pints before fatal crash jailed

Court of Criminal appeal upholds arguments that five-year suspended sentence unduly lenient

A man who drank some eight pints before driving down the wrong lane of a dual carriageway, where he crashed and killed a man, has been jailed for three years by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The three-judge court imposed the prison sentence, plus a 15-year driving ban, on Ronan Cunningham (30), who had admitted dangerous driving causing the death of Emanuel Mendez in October 2010.

The CCA previously upheld arguments by the DPP that a five-year suspended sentence imposed on Mr Cunningham was unduly lenient.

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman described Mr Cunningham's driving on the night of the collision as being "not jut dangerous" but "hideous".


Mr Cunningham, an engineer, from Enniskeen, Kingscourt, Co Cavan, previously pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Mendez (23) on October 10th, 2010, at Rathcoole on the N7 Naas dual carriageway. He also admitted driving while under the influence of alcohol on the same date.

Judge Martin Nolan imposed a five-year prison sentence, which was suspended in its entirety, and banned him from driving for five years.

On the night of the incident, Mr Cunningham drank "about eight pints" at a darts tournament at the Citywest Hotel before driving down the wrong side of the N7 Naas dual carriageway for 7km, at which point he collided with another car, the trial heard.

He had booked a room in the hotel, but then decided to drive back to Cavan at 1am.

The DPP appealed the sentence on grounds of undue leniency, and the CCA last year found the “extraordinary nature” of the driving was an “alarming” feature of the case, inadequately taken into account by the sentencing judge.

Melanie Greally BL, for the DPP, said the sentence was appealed because Mr Cunningham’s driving on the night was “so extreme”.

Paul Greene SC, for Mr Cunningham, said his client was remorseful and became tearful whenever he saw relatives of those killed in road traffic incidents speak about their loved ones on road safety television adverts.

He had pleaded guilty at an early stage and no longer drank nor drove, counsel said. His client had had these matters hanging over him for some time and €25,000 compensation had been paid to the deceased’s family.

An aunt of the deceased had told the trial that, while she forgave Mr Cunningham, she held him wholly responsible for Mr Mendez’s death.

Yesterday, the CCA, with Mr Justice Hardiman presiding and sitting with Mr Justice Daniel Herbert and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the court considered a three-year prison sentence appropriate in this case. Even when all the mitigating factors were taken into account, a custodial sentence was merited, he said.

Mr Cunningham was given a week to get his affairs in order before his sentence comes into effect.