Family of man killed in crash asks that driver not be jailed

Judge praises family of motorcyclist TJ Sweetnam (41) who died after Co Cork collision

A woman walked free from court on Thursday after the family of a motorcyclist she killed while out driving urged the judge not to jail her.

A woman walked free from court on Thursday after the family of a motorcyclist she killed while out driving urged the judge not to jail her.

Jennifer Connery had previously pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing the death of TJ Sweetnam (41) at Ballinrush, Kilworth, Co Cork, on August 22nd 2015.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin sentenced Connery, of Wills Crescent, Whitton Park, Hounslow, London, to one year in jail but suspended it. He disqualified her from driving for four years.

The late Mr Sweetnam, a mechanic and motorcycle enthusiast, was close to home when he was hit by Connery.


Sgt John McNamara said an examination of the crash scene suggested Mr Sweetnam was very close to Connery’s car when she pulled out in front of him.

Neither Connery nor Mr Sweetnam was speeding but she was so close to him when she pulled out that he had no chance to avoid her and was killed instantly, said Sgt McNamara.

A friend of the Sweetnam family, Michael Smiddy, read out a victim impact statement on their behalf detailing how their lives have been changed as a result of his death.

They were shattered when they learned their son and brother had died less than a mile from their home. They also acknowledged that both Connery and her family had seen their lives changed hugely as a result of one moment of carelessness. Mr Smiddy said the family appreciated that no one had gone out that day intending to cause a crash.

He said all too often motorcyclists are blamed for road collisions and the family wanted to highlight the fact Mr Sweetnam was in no way responsible for the crash.

Prosecution barrister Imelda Kelly BL said Mr Sweetnam's mother, Anne, met Connery before Thursday's hearing and did not want to see her to go jail.


Defence barrister Brian Leahy BL said the defendant returned from London to Fermoy regularly to visit her aging parents and felt sorrow every day since for her lapse of concentration.

Mr Leahy pointed out that his client had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, had no previous convictions and was unlikely to come before the courts again.

Judge O Donnabhain said the accused had pulled out so suddenly in front of Mr Sweetnam that he had no chance to react and avoid a collision.

“He was an entirely innocent user of the road, out enjoying a cycle on his motorbike and she did not see the oncoming motorcycle even though he had his main light on,” the judge said.

“There was no evidence of speed and other aggravating factors - no excessive speed and no defective vehicle. It was carelessness, rather than any other form of driving,” he said.

“It was at the higher end of carelessness but I accept this lady has suffered her own torments because of the accident. She feels very guilty and she co-operated fully with the guards.”

Judge O Donnabhain praised the Sweetnam family for the generosity and understanding that they have shown Connery and he noted how they did not wish to see her jailed.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times