Fiona Ferguson and Sonya McLean
A man driving a motorbike at high speed in an urban area has been jailed for three and half years after he struck a pedestrian causing her serious injury.
James Doyle (36), of Thomas Road, Walkinstown, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Emily Doyle on Cromwellsfort Road, Walkinstown, on April 23rd, 2020. He has 47 previous convictions.
Sentencing Doyle on Tuesday, Judge Martin Nolan said it had been “tragic indeed” for Ms Doyle and noted that the evidence suggested Doyle had been driving up to 130 km/hr in an urban area that had a speed limit of 50 km/hr.
He said when Doyle braked, his speed reduced to about 110 km/hr and at the point of impact with Ms Doyle he was driving at about 80 or 90 km/hr.
Judge Nolan said that many motorists could find themselves facing similar charges as “all it take is momentary inattention or lack of concentration”, but he noted that Doyle’s driving was “intentional behaviour”.
“He drove at exceptionally high speed. She was crossing the road, and she thought it was perfectly safe to do so,” Judge Nolan said.
“If he had been driving at a reasonable speed there would have been no problem. He couldn’t react by reason of his speed. He decided to drive his motorcycle at such a speed, which is the principal reason he must be punished,” the judge continued.
He said he was taking into account the serious injuries suffered by Ms Doyle including spinal and leg fractures. He noted the “considerable time” she spent in hospital and recuperating afterwards and said she is just coming to term with her “physical, mental and emotional” trauma.
Judge Nolan took into account Doyle’s co-operation with the investigation, his remorse and good work history before he jailed him for three and half years.
“He should have known better. What he did was reprehensible and reckless,” the judge said.
Ms Doyle told gardaí she had left the house to go for a walk, looked both ways before she crossed the road and recalled waking up on the side of the road. She had headphones on, but they were not noise-cancelling.
She sustained serious injuries including fractures to both legs, spinal fracture and a dislocated shoulder. She spent three months in hospital and underwent several surgeries. She continues to experience ongoing issues including pain, scarring and reduced mobility.
In her victim impact statement, the 27-year-old described waking up on the road after being hit and being unable to feel her injuries.
She outlined her difficult time in hospital during Covid, which left her feeling helpless and reliant on others. She told the court of the blur of physiotherapy and rehabilitation and ongoing effects from her injuries.
Ms Doyle said she continues to feel more anxious about life in general and fears for her loved ones. She said each time she hears a motorbike she wonders is that the person who knocked her down. She worries about how her injuries will affect her future.
It could have been much worse, but it should not have happened in the first place
She said that everyone remarked that she had been lucky, and it could have been worse. “It could have been much worse, but it should not have happened in the first place,” she said.
She said instead of the fresh start she had been hoping for in her life at that time, she had endured an exhausting journey of pain, tears and anger. She said she feels she has lost years from her life and has been forever changed.
The garda agreed with defence counsel that there had been no showing off or reckless conduct and the issue had been speed. The accused was fully insured, had a full licence and was not intoxicated.
Defence counsel reiterated the accused man’s apology to the victim. He said he deeply regretted getting on a bike that day. He made admissions during interview.
He submitted Doyle had attempted to swerve and avoid contact prior to the crash and a forensic report recorded a reduction in speed. He said other than high speed, there was no conduct such as racing or aggressive driving.
He said Doyle had been diagnosed with ADHD but had replaced his medication with alcohol and drugs leading to a string of convictions in a four-year period of his young life 17 years ago.
He has not come to any further garda since that time in his life and had completed residential drug treatment. He said Doyle had turned his life around since that time and is now in a stable relationship. He has young children and is in employment as a truck driver.
Defence counsel asked the court to take into account Doyle's guilty plea and expressions of remorse.