Drink driver caused ‘chronic, life-changing injuries’ in crash

Judge Rory McCabe

A driver who was three times over the legal alcohol limit, caused chronic, life-changing injuries to another motorist while chasing her now ex-partner, whom she mistakenly believed had abducted her son from her home.

Oonagh Carter (36), from 13 Ashfield Road, Greenfields, Newcastle, received a three-year suspended sentence and was disqualified from driving for four years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

She pleaded guilty in January to driving dangerously at Polkeen, Castlegar, on July 10, 2016, which caused serious bodily harm to the male driver of another car.

She also pleaded guilty to a second charge of drunken driving at N17, Tuam Road, Castlegar, on the same date, which stated that a blood sample taken from her at the time gave a reading of 168mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The reading showed she was more than three times over the maximum legal blood/alcohol limit, which is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Sentence was adjourned to last week’s court for the preparation of a probation report on Carter and a victim impact statement from the injured man.

Garda Dermot Hardiman said he arrived at the scene of the head-on collision, finding one of the cars over on its side. The impact had occurred on Carter’s incorrect side of the road.

Carter, he said, had been driving a BMW while the other motorist had been driving a Passat.  The injured man had to be cut from his vehicle.

Both he and Carter were removed by ambulance from the scene. A blood sample was taken from Carter in the hospital which gave the above reading.

Garda Hardiman said Carter had a few drinks in town earlier that night where she had a dispute with her partner.  She got a taxi home and went to bed.  The argument continued at home and he stormed out of the house. She presumed he had taken her son and she jumped into her car, barefoot and dressed in her night attire, and drove after him out the Tuam road.

The injured man underwent emergency lifesaving surgery that night for internal injuries he sustained in the impact.

He also suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck and developed sepsis and a blood clot post-surgery. He spent a month in hospital recovering from his injuries.

Garda Hardiman said the man still suffers from quite severe, life-changing conditions as a result of the internal injuries he sustained that night.

His victim impact statement was read into evidence by Garda Hardiman as he did not wish to attend court.

The man said that while he felt lucky to be alive, he no longer felt safe and confident and had been unable to return to work.

He said his favourite pasttime had been driving cars but he could no longer do that.  He continues to have trouble sleeping and sees the lights of the other car coming towards him.

“My independence and confidence have been stripped away. I cannot garden and I cannot play with my grandchild.  I have pain every day.  I have a constant stream of medical check-ups and I will be under the care of the surgical team in UHG for a long time,” the man said in his victim impact statement.

Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, said Carter wanted to publicly apologise to the man and his family.

He said it was an exceptional case in that Carter didn’t intend to drink and drive that night.

“She had done everything right by leaving her car at home and taking a taxi into town.  She drank three to four craft beers and a couple of pints and took another taxi home.

“She went to bed and fell asleep but her then boyfriend woke her up and they had a fight.”

Mr McCarthy said Carter suddenly believed the man had left her home with her son and she hopped into her car and went after him.

He said his client suffered significant injuries in the impact too.

Judge Rory McCabe said the other innocent driver had suffered “profound and serious injuries” while going about his own business that night and the fact that Carter had taken alcohol was an aggravating factor.

However, he said, Carter’s probation report could not be any more positive and sending her to jail would not bring the victim back to full health or serve the interests of justice.

The judge said she had made a bad decision that night and her barrister had painted a picture of a concerned parent who mistakenly believed her son was being abducted.

He sentenced Carter to three years in prison for the dangerous driving causing serious injury charge which he suspended for five years and imposed a four-year disqualification.  A concurrent four-year disqualification was also imposed for the drunken driving charge.