Judge refuses to lift four-year driving ban for woman involved in fatal crash
Woman convicted of careless driving after killing motorcyclist in Co Cork in 2015
Jennifer Connery had been given a one year suspended sentence by Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain in April 2016 for careless driving causing the death of TJ Sweetnam at Ballinrush, Kilworth, Co Cork, on August 22nd 2015
A judge has refused to lift a four-year driving disqualification imposed on a 53-year-old woman who killed a motorcyclist in a traffic collision after hearing that the victim’s family felt the woman should serve the entire disqualification.
Jennifer Connery had been given a one year suspended sentence by Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain in April 2016 for careless driving causing the death of TJ Sweetnam at Ballinrush, Kilworth, Co Cork, on August 22nd 2015.
At sentencing, Judge Ó Donnabhain paid tribute to the family of the late Mr Sweetnam for their generosity and understanding when they told him they did not want to see Connery jailed for causing the death of their son and brother.
“They spoke eloquently of his (the deceased’s) personal and work commitments and it was very noticeable how understanding the family is of Mrs Connery’s situation,” he said at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
“Even in their own grief, in an extremely Christian and humane way, they have reached out and understood her position. Not everyone could do that,” he added as he imposed a four year driving disqualification.
However at an appeal hearing at Fermoy Circuit Court last Wednesday, State Solicitor for North Cork, Jerry Healy told Judge Ó Donnabhain the Sweetnam family had felt very hurt over Connery’s decision to seek to have the driving disqualification lifted.
The Sweetnam family believed Connery should serve the disqualification in full, not from any sense of bitterness but simply because they felt she should have reciprocated the generosity they had shown to her at sentencing, he said.
Sgt John McNamara said gardaí were also opposed to the lifting of the ban on the basis Connery had been living in the UK at the time and it had no impact on her from May 2016 until March 2018 when she returned to live in Ireland.
Connnery had previously sought to have the disqualification lifted in July but Judge Ó Donnabhain refused that application and he didn’t give any indication then that if they applied again, he would lift it before it had been fully served.
Connery took the stand at Fermoy Circuit Court to ask for the disqualification to be lifted, telling her barrister, Patrick O’Riordan BL she had returned to live in Ireland and she needed her licence back to keep her new job.
She explained that she have to give up her previous job at Fota Island Resort after four months because she was reliant on her uncle for lifts but he had since passed away and her aunt did not drive.
She had since got a job working in a marketing role at Lismore Castle but she had been informed that she would need to be able to drive from January as the position required that she would travel about promoting the estate.
“I totally understand the position of the family – I want to say to them that I don’t come here on a whim – I think about it every day and I am truly sorry but I need to move on,” said Connery who broke down in the witness box.
Mr O’Riordan BL said that his client had suffered with abusive messages being left on her Facebook page particularly after the issue had been raised by the Sweetnam family on the Neil Prendeville Show on Cork’s Red FM.
But Judge Ó Donnabhain said he knew nothing about the issue featuring on Facebook or The Neil Prendeville Show, going on to say that he had not got to where was today by listening to the popular morning radio programme.
“I think this is singularly unwise because you know are you upsetting the deceased family very much and for the sake of five months, you are pushing this on,” he said as he refused the application to lift the driving disqualification.