A dangerous driver who, according to a judge, should never be allowed behind the wheel “on a public road” again after his vehicle crashed into oncoming traffic during a “truly scandalous” overtaking manoeuvre has failed in his bid to have his conviction quashed.
When Martin Feehan’s Citroen Berlingo van struck the vehicle 40-year-old Brid Hallihan was a passenger in head on, she suffered a broken pelvis and spent months in hospital as she recovered from serious injuries sustained in the multiple-vehicle pile-up on the main Mallow-to-Cork road at Granagh, Co Cork, on February 16, 2015.
Prosecutors claimed Feehan had been driving too fast when the overtaking lane he was travelling in merged with a slower lane and as a result he lost control of his vehicle, which then careered across the carriageway and into traffic travelling in the opposite direction.
Feehan (42) of Killaltanagh, Banagher, Co Galway, was later charged with dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm, contrary to Section 53 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 – a charge he had denied.
A jury, however, found him guilty and he was given a three-year suspended sentence and a 20-year driving ban by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin following a trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February 2020.
Sentencing Feehan, Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “His misreading of the event was all but total. I think the public would be better served by a driving ban. It is my view that he should never drive on a public road again.”
Feehan later launched an appeal against the conviction on the grounds the judge had erred in law in his explanation to the jury of the difference between dangerous driving and careless driving.
It was further claimed the judge had “erred in fact and in law in failing to summarise the factual matters on relevant issues” and had “erred by in law in refusing the appellant’s application for a direction in the case”.
But the appeal has been dismissed on all grounds.
In a written judgement delivered on Tuesday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy stated that although Judge Ó Donnabháin had been criticised for his “colloquial or homely answer to the jury’s questions”, it was clear to the appellate court he had been “plainly attempting to further explain the level of fault required to prove the charge”.
The claim the judge had erred in his summary of factual matters was similarly dismissed after the court noted that Judge Ó Donnabháin was “not required to accept counsel’s version of the evidence”.
Regarding the issue the defence had with the judge’s refusal of the appellant’s application for a direction to acquit, Mr Justice McCarthy noted that this ground related to availability of dashcam footage from another vehicle involved in the crash.
The footage could not be viewed because the device which had recorded the material had become “corrupted” and the images could not be “downloaded with the technology available to gardaí”, he observed.
Rejecting this ground, Mr Justice McCarthy stated: “Even if usable footage was recovered, what it might or might not show (if examined by a suitable expert) is entirely speculative.”
An appeal against Feehan’s driving ban and suspended sentence will be heard at a later date.