A teenager, who sped off after knocking down a two-year-old outside the child’s home, has appealed against his four-year sentence.
The Cork youth was sentenced last year, having pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to the toddler, who was left with a life-long brain injury.
His sentencing court heard that the uninsured and unlicensed driver was 17 when he bought the car for €100 the day before committing the crime. He had three passengers on board when he sped through a series of tight turns in a residential area, where he hit the toddler on March 25, 2019.
The court heard that the child was thrown into the air and the teenager knew that he had hit him, but sped off.
The boy’s mother came out of her house to discover her son lying ‘bleeding and lifeless’ on the road. She delivered a victim impact statement to the sentence hearing, describing her ‘little boy’s life hanging by a thread’ as they waited for the ambulance.
“I was shocked that they left my baby to die on the side of the road,” she said of the driver.
The court heard that the toddler suffered a seizure and spent eight days in an induced coma and on a ventilator, and another 12 days in intensive care in Temple St Children’s Hospital.
He had suffered a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder blade, a fractured hip, a collapsed left lung, a bleed on the brain and a serious brain injury. He was unable to walk, talk, use his hands or even hold up his head and had to be fed through a tube.
His permanent traumatic brain injury meant that by the time of the hearing, he still struggled with his speech, his processing was slower and he had sensory issues. It was too early to say if he would have a learning or intellectual disability.
The accused 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 gardaí and driving without insurance or licence.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain said that to leave the scene of the accident almost bordered on inhumane.
He sentenced him to six years detention, but suspended the final two years. He also banned him from driving for 20 years.
The accused was still 17 at the time of the sentence hearing and was sent to Oberstown Detention Campus, but was transferred to Wheatfield Prison shortly after turning 18 earlier this year.
He attended remotely from the prison when he appealed against the severity of his sentence to the Court of Appeal on Friday.
His victim’s family attended remotely from Anglesea Garda Station in Cork.
The teenager’s barrister, Siobhán Lankford SC, submitted that the sentencing judge had failed to afford sufficient weight to the mitigating factors in the case. She also argued that he had failed to give any or adequate consideration to suspending a greater portion of the sentence to allow for her client’s rehabilitation.
She further argued that the judge had erred in imposing a driving disqualification for 20 years on the appellant, bearing in mind his extreme youth.
She said that she had seen the updated victim impact statement and the psychologist’s report on the child and that she was conscious that the child’s parents were watching.
“I’m anxious that they know that he remains very contrite,” she said.
“My client would like to put on the record his sincere apologies, regret and remorse.”
Ray Boland BL responded on behalf of the State.
He submitted that the sentence and driving disqualification imposed were measured and appropriate.
Judgement was reserved by Court President Justice George Birmingham (presiding), Justice Patrick McCarthy and Justice Isobel Kennedy.