A WEST Cork farmer who admitted dangerous driving causing the death of an 80-year-old was jailed last week for three years and nine months.
The court heard he was more than four times over the legal limit for drink driving, and veered over to his incorrect side of the road and hit an oncoming van.
Dan Coakley (44) of Derryleigh, Inchigeelagh, had a reading of 99 mcgs of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, which is more than four times the legal limit of 22 mcgs per 100 millilitres of breath.
The accident happened at 11.30am on November 8th 2020 at Carrigleigh, Inchigeelagh.
The defendant had pleaded guilty earlier this year to dangerous driving causing the death of pensioner David Service, who was a passenger in a car driven by his son Gary.
Coakley also pleaded guilty to drink driving and knowingly or recklessly having a defective vehicle at the time of the collision.
Garda Daragh Moore told Judge Helen Boyle at a previous sitting of Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Coakley was driving a black Audi car which crossed over the centre of the white line on the date in question.
Gary Service and his father David were returning home to Cork from a visit to Gougane Barra when Coakley’s car hit them and pushed their van backwards.
Garda Moore said that gardaí detected a smell of alcohol from Coakley at the scene and a breath sample was taken. Coakley was subsequently arrested and taken to Macroom Garda Station where he underwent a test and was found to be four times over the limit.
Both vehicles were sent for a PSV examination. It was subsequently found that the Audi had an excessively worn nearside front track rod end, and an excessively worn nearside front suspension upper ball joint. Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan BL said that his client was completely wrong and ‘feels bad’.
‘He remained at the scene. There was no attempt by him to escape the scene,’ he added.
‘He is somebody who would have an alcohol problem. There were defects in the vehicle which were viewed as dangerous defects but the reality of this is my client was very drunk and driving a car. There is no getting around that,’ he told the judge.
‘It seems to have been the day after a night’s drinking. There is a genuine level of remorse. He is destroyed by it. He feels what he did very deeply,’ said Mr O’Sullivan who presented a letter to the court in which Coakley expressed his remorse to Mr Service’s family.
Mr Service suffered a fractured pelvis in the crash and was expected to make a good recovery but died some 18 days later at Cork University Hospital.
The judge said it was a serious offence which had devastating consequences for Mr Service and his family.
She noted the contents of a Victim Impact Statement by Mr Service’s wife of 57 years, Teresa and his four sons, David, Gary, Darren, and Colin, and the huge loss they had felt as a result of his death.
Judge Boyle noted the defect in Coakley’s car but said the prime cause of the collision was the fact that Coakley was drink driving.
She said Coakley was a small farmer who had struggled all his life, and had earlier gone for treatment at Talbot Grove in Kerry, only to lapse again.
He had since engaged with Arbour House in Cork to address his addiction issues.
She noted that Coakley was in a relationship at the time of the fatal collision in 2020 but that relationship had since ended, even though he remained friends with the person, and they remained very supportive of him in his struggles with alcoholism and mental health difficulties.
She noted the crash also caused injuries to Gary Service, who hurt both his back and his shoulder in the collision. But she said Coakley saved the State time and expense by pleading guilty.
Judge Boyle noted that the maximum sentence available was 10 years but taking all factors into account, she believed the appropriate sentence of four years and nine months to take account of proportionality, deterrence and rehabilitation.
However, she said she would suspend the final 12 months, given Coakley’s guilty plea, leaving him with three years and nine months to serve. She also gave him six months concurrent for drink driving and disqualified him from driving for 10 years.