BY ALISON O’RIORDAN
A WEST Cork-based man who impeded a murder investigation by driving a man from a house where another man later lost his life after a ‘violent assault’ has avoided jail.
Thomas Fitchett (34), of The Moorings, Skibbereen had pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 7(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1997 of knowing or believing that another person not before the court had committed an arrestable offence, to wit the murder of Jonathan Ustic, and that without reasonable excuse had intentionally impeded that other person’s apprehension or prosecution.
Evidence was given at the sentence hearing that father-of-one Mr Ustic (51) was left in a house at High Street, Skibbereen, and Fitchett had driven another man from the house at 10.29pm on September 24th, 2017.
When asked by Ms Justice Eileen Creedon at the hearing what Fitchett’s understanding was in relation to Mr Ustic’s condition when he drove away from the area, Detective Sergeant Kevin Long said the defendant had knowledge of him being the victim of a serious assault.
‘At that High Street address there was some blood at the scene. He (Mr Ustic) had received injuries. Mr Fitchett’s understanding at that stage was that he was not dead at the particular time,’ Det Sgt Long said.
However, Det Sgt Long said Fitchett would have known that Mr Ustic had been the victim of a serious assault when he drove the other man away from the house in Skibbereen.
Det Sgt Long said that half an hour later, Fitchett was in a serious head-on car crash near Dunmanway, in which he was seriously injured himself. The other man, who was a passenger in the car, fled the scene.
Gardaí then became aware that Mr Ustic was deceased in the house at High Street, Skibbereen. He had lost his life as a result of injuries received in a serious assault.
Fitchett, who was the driver of the car, was later prosecuted for dangerous driving and drink-driving at the district court.
Sentencing Fitchett, Ms Justice Creedon said that gardaí were satisfied that Fitchett had no involvement in Mr Ustic’s death.
She imposed a two-year sentence and fully suspended it for two years on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour.