herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Hit-and-run driver 'should be banned for life' - Jen's mum

Hit-and-run driver Martin Joyce
Hit-and-run driver Martin Joyce

The mother of a little girl who suffered horrific injuries in a hit-and-run has said the driver responsible "should have got banned for life".

Martin Joyce (19) drove a car through a red light at a pedestrian crossing, flinging Jennifer Casey (7) into the air and breaking her leg. He has been jailed for a year and banned from driving for four years.

"I think he should have got banned for life, to be honest," the girl's mother, Jennifer Squires, last night told the Herald.

"I wouldn't really be happy but there's not much I can do," she said of the sentence, adding that she was glad he didn't get community service.

She said that, almost a year later, her daughter still has steel rods in her leg, which she hopes will be removed in the coming weeks.

"I hope it's going to happen this year because next May she has her Communion, so I don't want anything upsetting her."

Ms Squires said the family want to put the incident behind them. Her victim impact statement, read out at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, told how Jennifer suffered nightmares and was afraid of the road.

The mother said it was traumatic for her too, and it broke her heart looking at her daughter's injuries. Ms Squires, who wsa five months pregnant at the time, spent a week on the floor of the hospital while her daughter was being treated.

The driver, Joyce, was previously convicted on June 29, 2015, of failing to remain at the scene of an accident which took place on November 15, 2014.

Accident

A month after that accident Joyce broke a red light after exiting the Darndale roundabout on Dublin's Malahide Road and hit Jennifer, then aged six, with his van.

Joyce, of Cromcastle Court, Kilmore, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Jennifer Casey at the Malahide Road, Coolock, on the evening of December 17, 2014.

Ms Squires was taking Jennifer and her brother Thomas to church, where he was singing in the Christmas choir. They had crossed the first set of lights and were waiting on a traffic island for the next set to go green.

When the lights went green Jennifer went on ahead. Ms Squires told gardai later that she then saw the green van come at speed from the roundabout and hit her daughter. The child went up into the air and landed on the van's bonnet.

The van then went over her. Ms Squires went to her child and saw that her eyes were closed and thought she was dead. Someone found the girl had a pulse and the Dublin Fire Brigade brought her to hospital.

The child's femur was fractured and she suffered abdominal injuries. Jennifer was in a wheelchair for weeks after the incident but has made a good recovery, the court was told.

Footage

Investigators identified Joyce as a suspect from CCTV footage and, two days after the accident, the van was seized from outside his grandmother's home.

Three days later Joyce went to gardai and told them he had knocked the girl down. He said it was an accident and that he had not been thinking straight since. "I heard a bang. I didn't know whether I'd hit a person or a dog - I didn't know what to do," he said.

He said he learned from news reports that he had hit a child and said he was quite upset.

Judge Martin Nolan said it was a "gravely aggravating factor" that Joyce left the scene and said it was for this reason that he was imposing a custodial sentence. The judge imposed a two-year sentence with the final one suspended and disqualified Joyce from driving for four years from yesterday.

In a letter to the court, Joyce said: "I'm sorry, I'm truly sorry. I have to live with it for the rest of my life, it was a mistake".

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