The Court of Appeal has reduced the jail term imposed on a drink-driver who killed a four-year-old boy and severely injured his mother in a crash in Co Laois in 2014 by 18 months.

Ciarán Treacy was killed when Finbarr O'Rourke, of Laurel Drive, Portlaoise in Co Laois, crashed head on into the car being driven by Gillian Treacy on the evening of 17 April 2014 at Ballymorris in Portarlington.

Ms Treacy, Ciarán and his seven-year-old brother were returning from the children's grandparents' house at the time.

O'Rourke pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven and a half years for dangerous driving causing death at Portlaoise Circuit Court last year. A charge of drink-driving was taken into account.

The Circuit Court judge said the appropriate sentence was nine years and reduced it to take into account mitigating factors. 

The Appeal Court has ruled there had been an error of principle in that decision, in the context of previous sentences for dangerous driving causing death and in the absence of evidence of any prolonged period of dangerous driving before the crash.

The court ruled the appropriate sentence was eight years, with the final two years suspended. 

The Appeal Court said it acknowledged O'Rourke's genuine remorse, his guilty plea and the need to incentivise his rehabilitation.

Giving the court's judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said it was appropriate and desirable for there to be a degree of consistency in sentencing for such offences.

He said this may appear to be clinical and callous to the victims of such terrible offences but it was necessary in the interests of the administration of justice and in particular in the interests of sentencing judges.

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He said there had been a progressive increase in the sentences imposed for dangerous driving causing death and this was probably a reflection of the public's abhorrence for drink-driving.

The judge said Ms Treacy had suffered serious injuries which had been life threatening and were life-long. 

He said her victim impact statement spoke in the most moving terms of the extent of the family's loss of their adored young son. The crash had changed the family's lives forever and they had also suffered severe financial consequences.

Mr Justice Mahon said the circumstances of the case were quite horrific. He said O'Rourke freely took the risk to drive having had around eight to ten pints of cider on the afternoon of 17 April.

It had been said his decision was not premeditated but he had walked to his car and driven it for a period before the crash. 

He walked away from the scene in circumstances where he was aware someone had probably died and Ms Treacy was very seriously injured.

The judge said the court acknowledged that he had co operated with the gardaí, he had pleaded guilty and shown genuine remorse. 

Mr Justice Mahon said it was insignificant compared with the effects on the family but O'Rourke would have to live with the guilt of what he had done.

In a statement, read by their solicitor outside court, the Treacys said they were living the nightmare every parent dreads.

Solicitor John Browne said the Treacys were an ordinary, hard working family whose lives were changed forever.

He said words could not express their anger, grief and revulsion towards the drunk driver who had robbed Gillian and Ronan of their beloved son and Caoimhe and Seán of the brother they deserved but now would never have.

He said those feelings would not outweigh the love and cherished memories of Ciarán which sustained them through their darkest hours.

The family said they wanted to acknowledge the court's decision and hoped it would act as a warning and a deterrent to others.

Mr Browne said the family was disappointed but respected and acknowledged the court's judgment.

He said Ciarán would live forever in their thoughts, prayers and kind actions. 

Mr Browne also said Gillian and Ronan asked for their privacy to be requested at this sensitive time.