A man has been sentenced to fifteen years in prison, with one year suspended, over a fatal Co Meath crash in which a woman was killed three years ago. 

Michael Collins, 45, of St Finian's Park in Drogheda was jailed for 14 years for dangerous driving causing death and endangerment in a crash in which 20-year-old Jillian Thornton was killed on the N2 near Balrath on 27 May 2016.

Handing down sentence, Judge Martina Baxter said this trial was difficult and often trying.

She described the Thornton's family loss as "immeasurable", a loss she said that will never go away.

She said at every remove the driving by Michael Collins was dangerous and he had a particular delusion throughout the trial about what happened and avoided responsibility.

"He had no regard for safety, life or limb" she said.

Judge Baxter said Collins had a misguided belief that gardaí were to blame for the crash, and this was nonsense in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The judge said said Collins' behaviour throughout the trial "did him no favours".

She said all witnesses, civilian and garda, should be commended for their composure and dignity throughout the trial, which at times was challenging.

Jillian Thornton grew up in Drogheda in Co Louth, and was was the youngest of three children.

"She was killed a month before her 21st, that broke us, we're not even a shadow of what we used to be" said Elaine Thornton, Jillian's sister.

"Jillian was the most loving, caring, kind-hearted person that you'll ever meet. She loved children, her smile would light up a room. She always saw the good in everyone" she said.

"If love was money she would have been a millionaire, she just couldn't give people enough" her sister explained.

The family say that three years on, they still had many unanswered questions.

"It's so hard to try and get it into your head that he killed her, that he took her from us. We are not a family anymore, he took her from us, he took everything from us" Elaine said.

"It could have been all stopped if he had only stopped the car, that's all he had to do, stop the car and let her out because she wanted to get out" her mother Lorraine added.

The trial heard how the fatal crash followed a 25 minute pursuit through Drogheda and east Meath, that began when a dark coloured Mitsubishi Colt driven by Michael Collins failed to stop for gardaí after driving the wrong way on a roundabout.

Gardaí involved in following the car told the trial that Collins had driven through a number of red lights, travelled at high speed on the wrong side of the road without lights, almost collided with other vehicles and forced a number of garda cars onto the hard shoulder.

At 10.27pm that night, the car Michael Collins was driving collided with a Volkswagen Passat and crashed.

The trial heard Collins had cannabis in his system on the night of the fatal crash.

The Thornton family said Jillian did not know Michael Collins but she trusted him that night.

"Jillian never knew Michael Collins until the night he killed her. She was the type of her person that would trust anyone and that night she was killed she got in the car with that man and in the end she paid with her life.

"The reality is we have to live with that, we have to live to with his actions" said Elaine.

The trial heard recordings of 999 calls from the passengers in the car claiming the driver was going to crash unless gardaí called off the pursuit. One of the calls made shortly before crash ended in a scream.

"She screamed and she begged and she begged and he said he was not stopping the car. Why? How can you sit there, when someone is begging for their life, screaming and you choose not the stop the car" Elaine said. 

The family today appealed to people to think twice about getting into a car with someone they do not know.

"Trust whoever you are getting into a car with, above all make sure you know the driver. We are hoping that by telling Jillian's story it will save at least one life and save one family from going through the hell that we're going through."

The family today thanked the Director of Public Prosecutions and the gardaí who investigated the case led by Sergeant David Campbell.

They also paid tribute to the gardaí who tried to stop the car on the night of the crash and who were with Jillian at the roadside, where she died.

Elaine said she also wanted to thank the 999 operator who stayed on the phone with her sister.

"It's heartbreaking to realise that she's gone and she's not coming back, no words can explain how hard it is" she said.

Before sentencing, Michael Collins said he wanted to apologise to the family and told the court he wished he had stopped the car.

He said taking chase was "a foolish thing" to do but still maintained, after being found guilty, that the gardaí hit him, causing the crash.