Court rules dangerous driving sentence 'unduly lenient'

Tuesday 11 March 2014 17.10
A pregnant woman and two men died in the head-on collision on 27 December 2010
A pregnant woman and two men died in the head-on collision on 27 December 2010

A man, who was convicted of dangerous driving causing death, has been sent back to prison following the successful appeal of his sentence by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Court of Criminal Appeal had found that the sentence of four years with one suspended imposed on Kevin McArdle, of Longfield, Carrickmacross, at Monaghan Circuit Court in October 2011 was "unduly lenient".

The court substituted the original sentence with a sentence of six years with the last two years suspended on the same terms as set down by the Circuit Court.

McArdle was also banned from driving for 12 years.

A pregnant woman and two men were killed in a head-on collision on 27 December 2010.

McArdle, 31, had drank almost three-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit and was on the wrong side of the road when he drove his BMW car headlong in to a car driven by Stephen Connolly on the Carrickmacross to Ardee road.

Mr Connolly's wife Roisin, 39, and their unborn child were killed.

McArdle’s friends Glen Curtis and Paul Carroll, both aged 27, and who were passengers in McArdle's car, also died.

McArdle was released from prison on 29 August 2012, having voluntarily entered custody in May 2011.

Presiding judge, Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, along with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said it was a "very serious case of dangerous driving", which caused the death of three individuals.

The case was adjourned last September to allow McArdle to address his drinking problem and to direct the preparation of reports, which would allow the court to consider whether it would be possible not to extend the custodial portion of the sentence imposed.

However, the judge said very little had happened since then and the court was not convinced that it should not impose a custodial sentence.

Mr Justice O'Donnell said McArdle, having served his sentence, had been brought back before the court on two occasions and was now faced with going back to jail having already been released.

In those circumstances, the judge said, the court would not impose the sentence that it felt would have been appropriate.

Mr Justice O'Donnell said the sentence required a further period of incarceration of one year from today, including a disqualification period of 12 years from the date of the Circuit Court order.

Counsel for the DPP, Michael Bowman BL, told the court that the offence was "an accident waiting to happen" due to the amount of alcohol consumed by McArdle, who had drank nine pints of beer and five brandies, leaving him with almost three-and-half times the legal blood/alcohol limit in his system.

He said that McArdle had presented at court on a multiplicity of occasions in relation to road traffic offences and had taken the view that he "effectively could do what he wants" in terms of road matters.

Counsel said that McArdle was driving without insurance at the time of the offence and had previous convictions for drink-driving, driving without insurance and driving within the currency of a disqualification term.

Mr Bowman said that a psychological report indicated that McArdle had limited insight into the "devastating consequences" of his actions and that he considered it normal to drink ten to 16 pints a night.

He said McArdle had affirmed it was commonplace in his locality for young people to drink and drive and when asked by the psychologist if he would continue to drink, McArdle replied he would reduce his alcohol intake considerably but would still have the odd pint.

In light of McArdle's previous convictions and his attitude as outlined in the psychologist's report, Mr Bowman said that Judge John O'Hagan's decision not to attach any conditions to the suspended portion of the sentence should be considered an error in principle.

Counsel for McArdle, Michael O'Higgins SC, said that McArdle's crossing on to the wrong side of the road was a "momentary lapse in concentration" brought about by excessive consumption of alcohol.

On another occasion, Mr O'Higgins said, the action could have had no consequences.

He said the psychological report indicated that McArdle was ultimately a "humble and self-effacing person" who knew that his actions were wrong, had genuine remorse and suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr O'Higgins said the report indicated that some of McArdle's comments to the psychologist were a defence mechanism, because if he were to confront the reality of the situation he would be overwhelmed.

He said there was community service work available for McArdle in his home town and he was willing to submit to any form of alcohol treatment, including attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mr O'Higgins said McArdle was anxious to stay out of jail as he had completed his sentence and was not convinced a return to jail would be of any great benefit.