Irishman arrives in Hungary for jail term over fatal crash

Ciaran Tobin, convicted in 2002, expected to return to Ireland this week

An Irishman has started what is expected to be a short prison term in Hungary, where he was convicted in absentia for killing two children in a car crash in April 2000.

Ciaran Tobin, who lives with his family in Sutton, Dublin, was driving through the village of Leanyfalu near the Hungarian capital, Budapest, when his car mounted the pavement and struck the children, Marton Zoltai (5) and his sister Petra (2).

Following Mr Tobin's conviction in 2002, Hungary unsuccessfully sought to have him extradited from Ireland to serve a three-year sentence for negligent driving, a charge he denied.

The case strained relations between Budapest and Ireland, before a breakthrough last March when Mr Tobin said he would be willing to serve a portion of his sentence in Hungary if he could see out the majority in Ireland.


Police were waiting for Mr Tobin at Budapest airport yesterday evening, when he arrived with his wife on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin. Hungarian media showed him being put in handcuffs and taken into custody.

Hungarian officials revealed, however, that Mr Tobin may be able to return to Ireland as early as Friday.

"In line with an earlier agreement, should he lodge a request to continue his term in Ireland, the relevant procedure will be started on Friday and he can leave Hungary on January 17th," said Tibor Navracsics, Hungary's minister for public administration and justice.

A Hungarian court ruled that Mr Tobin, who worked for Irish Life in Budapest, should serve at least 18 months of his sentence in jail. Having already spent seven months in an Irish prison, he would have about 11 months left to serve upon his return home.

Ireland's High and Supreme Courts dismissed extradition proceedings against Mr Tobin in 2007, primarily because he had not "fled" Hungary following the incident but departed without impediment, after Hungarian police who had seized his passport returned the document to him.

A second extradition request was rejected in 2012 as an abuse of process. Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said at the time that a Hungarian national in similar circumstances could have served time at home for a sentence imposed abroad, rather than being extradited.

He also ruled out extradition due to the contradictory and inconsistent nature of documents provided by the Hungarian authorities, relating to how long Mr Tobin would have to serve in jail.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe