A man who drove a car after having ‘a skinful to drink’ has been convicted of dangerous driving causing serious harm, and jailed.
Kilkenny Circuit Court heard how a collision occurred on November 18, 2017, near Gowran. One man had to be cut out of his car by emergency services and both drivers suffered serious injuries.
Conor Walsh, Corlican, Killurin, Enniscorthy, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious harm and drink driving.
Sgt Morgan O’Connor gave evidence that just after midnight, on November 18, two men were in a car driving towards Paulstown. It was a straight stretch of road and weather conditions were good. The men were in the Garryduff area when they saw a black Ford Mondeo driving towards them and crossing on to their side of the road. They took avoidance action.
Martin McGrath was travelling behind the men. The Ford Mondeo struck him head-on, close to the middle of the road.
Mr McGrath told gardaí he remembered being blinded by oncoming lights. He didn’t have a chance to react in any way. He remembered the air bags going off in his car, the next thing he remembered was a man telling him an ambulance was coming. He was screaming in pain and the roof had to be cut off his car to get him out.
Mr McGrath remembered being in the ambulance with a garda who asked him for details to contact his parents then the next thing he remembered was waking up in hospital at 6am.
He knew the road well as he drove it to and from work everyday.
When he stabilised in St Luke’s hospital in Kilkenny, Mr McGrath was transferred to Waterford Regional Hospital for surgeries on his left knee, hip and ankle. He was in the ICU for several days because of damage to his spleen. He was later moved to Tallaght hospital for further surgery.
Mr McCarthy did not return home from hospital until December 28, 2017. His injuries were very serious and included fractures of his hip, knee, foot, ribs, both jaws and a ruptured spleen.
Gardaí on the scene of the accident observed extensive frontal impact damage to the Mondeo. The engine had been driven back into the bulkhead. Forensic collision examiners said both vehicles had been in good working order before the collision.
At the scene gardaí found Mr Walsh smelled of alcohol and his speech was slurred. He complained of pain in his legs.
At the hospital a blood sample was taken by a doctor and showed Mr Walsh had a level of 222mg of alcohol per 100mls of blood.
Mr Walsh was interviewed by gardaí in February 2018 and answered “no comment” to all questions.
Life Changed Forever
Mr McGrath declined to attend court. In his victim impact statement, read by Sgt O’Connor, Mr McGrath said words could not explain the pain he had endured on a daily basis. He is 33 and can’t play sports. His balance is affected and he is unable to return to work in the hospitality industry because he can’t stand for a long time. He now has to find a new career. He is back driving but is nervous and has to use an automatic car because his left leg has not regained full movement. “My life has changed forever.”
David Bulbulia BL, representing Mr Walsh, said his client was clearly very drunk at the time of the collision. He had also suffered a serious injury, fracturing his lumbar vertebrae.
In court Mr Walsh said he was deeply regretful for what had happened and accepted it was completely his fault. He said he hung his head in shame for what he did.
Mr Walsh, the barrister said, had worked as a jockey in the UK before returning to work with a trainer in Wexford, where he was head lad.
About four months before this incident Mr Walsh was arrested and interviewed in relation to a very serious matter, which he denied emphatically. No charges were brought, but that had not been determined at the time of the crash and Mr Walsh “did not have the emotional or psychological maturity to deal with it.”
Mr Bulbulia said this was an exceptional case because of the background circumstances for Mr Walsh. He was shocked to be arrested and “hit the bottle very hard.” He began abusing alcohol in a way that was out of character for him. During this black period his judgement was impaired and he got into the habit of drinking heavily every night.
He has since returned to work and is getting on with his life. A character reference letter from his employer was handed in to court.
The barrister said his client was genuinely remorseful for his “appalling lack of judgement and his appalling decision to get into a car after having a skinful to drink.”
Judge Terence O’Sullivan convicted Mr Walsh on both charges.
For dangerous driving causing serious harm he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, with the final 18 months suspended. He was sentenced to six months in prison and disqualified from driving for eight years on the drink driving charge.