Teen who knocked down boy (2) with car bought for €100, is sentenced

‘They left my baby to die on the side of the road’ says mother of child with life-changing injuries

A Cork teenager who knocked down a boy (2) and then sped off, leaving the toddler with life-changing injuries has been sentenced to four years detention.

Nathan O'Reilly (17) had bought the car just a day before the incident for €100. His behaviour on the day in question was so dangerous that Judge Sean O Donnabhain said he believed it was in society's interests he should be named, although he remains a juvenile until January 2020.

O’Reilly from Ballinure Avenue, Mahon in Cork pleaded guilty to a total of ten charges including dangerous driving on March 25th 2019, causing serious bodily harm to the child. The toddler cannot be named because of the Children’s Act.

He also pleaded guilty to driving a dangerously defective vehicle, failing to stop, failing to keep his vehicle at the scene of an incident, failing to report the incident to gardai and driving without insurance and without a licence.


Garda Darren Reid told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how O'Reilly had bought the car through Facebook the previous day for just €100 and drove it without a licence, insurance or NCT around the local area with two passengers on board.

He stopped to pick up a third passenger, revving the car and beeping the horn before speeding off with his three passengers on board and driving at speed through a chicane in a residential estate where he hit the toddler.

The child was thrown in the area but O’Reilly sped on, knowing he had hit the child and the car was later found parked up in Ballinure Place. The gardai later identified O’Reilly as the driver and arrested him for questioning.

Garda Reid said the toddler had been left lying at the side of the road, unconscious but breathing and he was rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital where it emerged that he had suffered serious brain injuries.

‘They left my baby to die ’

The boy’s mother took the stand to deliver a Victim Impact Statement in which she told how the life of her family changed forever that day when she came out of her house to discover her son lying bleeding and lifeless on the road.

“I will never forget the gut wrenching feeling that I knew something very serious was wrong. We feared for our little boy whose life was hanging by a thread as minutes seemed like hours as we waited for the ambulance.

“Once the ambulance had been, I asked who knocked him down and to my dismay, I was told they didn’t stop, they kept driving at high speed on exiting the estate. I was shocked that they left my baby to die on the side of the road.”

She told how they watched helplessly in CUH as her son had a seizure and his eyes rolled in his head and how he spent eight days in an induced coma on a ventilator and 12 in intensive care in Temple St Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

“He had suffered a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder blade, a fractured hip, a collapsed left lung, a bleed on the brain and most serious of all, a diffuse axonal brain injury from which only 10 per cent of people ever regain consciousness.”

She told how her toddler was unable to walk, talk or use his hands and even couldn’t hold up his head and had to be fed through a tube and was like “a new baby all over again” until he began a rehabilitation programme.

“He has a permanent traumatic brain injury and will suffer with this for the rest of his life. He struggles with his speech his processing is slower, his understanding isn’t as it should be - he has sensory issues which he never had.

“He is too young for neuro-assessment but it’s possible he could have learning difficulties and an intellectual disability and we were told he would probably stay dependent for the rest of his life - this has all taken its toll on our family.”

Defence counsel, Siobhan Lankford SC pleaded for leniency for her client, pointing to his pleas of guilty and his youth as well as a difficult upbringing and his lack of experience of life which caused him to flee the scene.


Judge O Donnabhain said that O’Reilly’s driving had been reckless and dangerous but his biggest problem in his view was his failure to stop but instead drive off after he knew he had hit the toddler.

“The first thing that strikes me there was a dangerous recklessness buying a car on the internet, driving it without insurance or any qualifications and on. the day there was the revving, the speed, the burning of tyres.

“He sped around with no ability to control the car, he strikes an infant on the road. The lever of dangerousness is very high. To leave the scene of the accident, it is almost bordering on inhumane.

“I will incorporate leaving the scene as an aggravating factor in the dangerous driving. Anyone in the car knew they had done serious damage to the child on the road… but they left the scene.

Judge O Donnabhain said that O’Reilly had written him a number of letters from prison expressing remorse and, unlike the ones he usually received from prisoners facing sentence, he believed them to be genuine.

“Usually they are written by someone else and they are worthless. But these are from a young person coming to terms with what he did. Bewildered, he does not know where he is or how he is going to get out of it.”

Judge O Donnabhain sentenced O’Reilly to six years detention on the dangerous driving charge and failing to remain at the scene charge but suspended the final two years while he also banned him from driving for a period of 20 years. The sentence was backdated to September 16th 2019 when O’Reilly went into detention at Oberstown House and he will remain there until he turns 18 when will be transferred to an adult prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

There were angry scenes outside Cork Circuit Criminal Court following Judge O Donnabhain’s decision to sentence O’Reilly to four years and allow him be named and three young men were arrested for public order offences.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times