Louth woman’s one-year jail term for dangerous driving causing the death of a pedestrian has been increased to 18 months by the Court of Appeal, following an application from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The DPP had appealed the ‘undue leniency’ of Eimear White’s sentence.
The 23-year-old had thrown a carton of sauce into another car, whose driver then chased her car through Dundalk, resulting in both cars hitting a 29-year-old man.
White pleaded guilty earlier this year at Dundalk Circuit Court to dangerous driving causing the death of 29-year-old Robert McLoughlin. He was knocked down on the 21st October 2017, after getting out of a taxi on the Old Newry Road at Dowdallshill.
Judge James McCourt sentenced White to three years in prison with the final two suspended.
The DPP appealed the ‘undue leniency’ of the sentence handed down to White, who has a former address at Castlecarra, Riverstown.
Mr McLoughlin’s parents attended the remote hearing of the Court of Appeal today (Friday), where CCTV footage was played of the car chase that led to his death.
Kevin Segrave BL described the footage, which was stopped before it reached the moment of impact.
“This is illustrative of a car chase through the streets of Dundalk, instigated by this accused throwing a carton of sauce at the other vehicle before driving away,” he said.
“Both were travelling at 81 to 95km per hour in what was a 50km per hour zone,” he said, referring to the time of the collision.
He explained that both cars had hit the deceased, who sustained multiple injuries. However, he noted that it could not be said which of the impacts was responsible for his death.
Mr Segrave said that the sentencing judge had formed a view as to what happened early in the hearing. Judge McCourt had remarked that White had been ‘stalked’ by the other driver, her co-accused.
“The State’s case was that there was nothing of that,” said counsel. “This accused threw sauce into a car containing three men, one of whom had been guilty of vulgar language and gestures.”
He noted that White had said that she had known the other driver and had reason to fear him.
“How that sits in with the throwing of the sauce and driving away, the State had difficulty with,” he remarked.
Counsel explained that White’s co-accused had been sentenced by a different judge, who regarded him as a person of good character, showing general remorse. He had cooperated and made an early plea.
Mr Segrave said that there were points of strong comparison between the presentation on behalf of both accused, and both were sentenced to three years in prison. However, the other judge had suspended only 18 months of the other driver’s sentence, while Judge McCourt had suspended two years of White’s.
Mr Segrave said that Judge McCourt had been very humanitarian and sympathetic to all concerned.
However, he ‘didn’t touch on rehabilitation’ and there was ‘no reference to deterrence’.
Counsel said that he didn’t believe that the DPP would have brought an undue leniency application if White’s sentence had matched that of her co-accused.
Fiona Murphy BL, representing White, submitted that it was clear from the footage that there was a level of stalking going on.
“There’s no excuse, and it was immature and inappropriate to throw the sauce, but to suggest that in doing so she instigated the car chase is unfair,” she argued.
Court President Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Justice John Edwards and Justice Patrick McCarthy, said that the Court of Appeal would not ordinarily intervene for the sake of six months. However, he noted that in this case, White’s co-accused would be required to serve a 50 per cent greater sentence than hers.
He described the sentence imposed on White’s co-accused as ‘a very lenient one’.
He said it was the view of the court that White’s sentencing judge had fallen into error in imposing an even more lenient one.
He said that the judge had ‘chided’ White’s counsel for suggesting that his client had instigated the car chase.
“It is our view that he (defence counsel) was right that she had instigated the pursuit of her car,” he said.
He said that there would have been no car chase had she not thrown the sauce.
“Had she received the same sentence as her co-accused she should have counted herself lucky, as her co-accused was,” he said.
“It seems to us that the decision to suspend an extra six months was an error. It gave rise to a sentence that was unduly lenient,” he said.
White, who attended the hearing remotely from the Dochas Women’s Prison, wiped away tears as she was re-sentenced to three years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.