herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Victim's family forgives jailed learner driver who killed teen

Driver Gareth Jones. Photo: Collins Courts
Driver Gareth Jones. Photo: Collins Courts

An unaccompanied learner driver who was speeding when he hit and killed a teenager has been jailed for nine months.

Gareth Jones (22) swerved to avoid three of the boy's friends as they crossed the road but hit Paul McCormack (16), who had changed direction to try to get back to the path.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard there was a fault with the ABS braking system in his Toyota Avensis but that there was no indication Jones was aware of this. The car had a valid NCT at the time.

Yesterday, Michael Bowman, defending, told the court that the victim's mother, Valerie Hyland, had presented Jones with a letter prior to the hearing. He said it communicated an extraordinary degree of understanding and forgiveness.

Mr Bowman said the letter displayed magnanimity and humanity in wishing Jones well with his life and that she would include Jones in her prayers.

He said the moment had been considerably emotional and said there was no enmity between the families.

Jones, of Mellowes Park, Finglas, Dublin, pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of Paul McCormack at Tolka Valley Road, Finglas, on June 26, 2015. He has two minor previous convictions.

The court heard Jones told gardai he was doing 70-80kmh in the area, which had a speed limit of 50kmh.

Difficult

After the collision, Jones remained at the scene, accepted responsibility and called an ambulance.

Judge Melanie Greally said she had come to a very difficult decision given Jones' youth and the relations between him and Paul's family.

She said the court had wider considerations but noted Paul's mother's magnanimity and understanding.

Judge Greally said Jones had been driving in excess of the speed limit and had been undeterred by speed ramps.

She said he failed to moderate his speed when he became aware of the group crossing the road and only applied emergency braking at the last minute. She said he displayed a "catastrophic lack of judgement".

She said, as Jones swerved, Paul had moved into the path of the car and suffered fatal head injuries when his head hit the windscreen.

Jones was also disqualified from driving for five years.

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