A judge who wanted to “send out a strong message” has jailed a man for one year for dangerous driving after causing the deaths of a Northern Ireland mother and daughter in Donegal in 2008.
Sean Goldrick (21) of Dunlewey, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court yesterday to causing the deaths of Martina McLernon (45) and her daughter, Louise (15) from Toome, Co Antrim.
The McLernon family looked shocked and angry at the sentence. They refused to comment after the case.
The court heard that on May 24, 2008, the pair, who were staying in their holiday home near Gweedore, where out walking when they were struck by Goldrick’s car which had gone out of control.
Evidence was given that Goldrick, then aged 19, was speeding home during a 30 minute work-break when he lost control, hit an oncoming car and ploughed into the pair, killing them instantly.
Gardai at the scene only identified the victims after Mrs McLernon’s son rang her on her mobile phone which lay in her cardigan at the side of the road.
Goldrick bought the 1990 Toyota Carina for €350 (£305). It did not have a valid road test certificate.
In their victim impact statement, the family said they wanted a message sent out about dangerous driving, which Judge John O’Hagan said was a “particular problem” in Donegal. The family’s solicitor, Patrick Diamond, read the victim impact statement on behalf of Martin McLernon.
He said the couple had been together for 30 years up to the time of her death and had been married for 21 years.
The court heard that Martina McLernon was his wife and business partner with a flair for architecture and design and that his daughter was a talented artist.
“I will never have the opportunity to walk my beautiful daughter up the aisle on her wedding day,” Mr McLernon said in his statement, adding that his only other child, Gerard, had been left deeply traumatised.
“His last memory of them is ringing his mother’s phone and it being answered by a garda who told him they had been knocked down,” he said.
A tearful Goldrick apologised to the McLernon family for what he had done.
Judge O’Hagan referred to recent cases where long sentences had been handed down for people convicted for dangerous driving causing death. But he noted that a number of these sentences had been successfully appealed to the High Court.
Judge O’Hagan said he would hand down a sentence which would be tailor-made for Goldrick and it would be a deterrent to other young drivers on the roads.
He said “at times like this” his job was a difficult one. But he said he would give credit to Goldrick for his early plea and the fact that he had no previous convictions.
“He has wiped two people off this planet and, in effect, he has imposed a sentence on himself,” said the judge, who called Goldrick’s driving “reckless in the extreme”.
“In this case, there must be a custodial sentence and the message has to go out to young people in Donegal that when they drive like this and do something wrong they are in serious trouble. This is not easy but I must send out a strong message.”
He jailed Goldrick for two years on each charge of dangerous driving and suspended the final 12 months of the sentence.
He also disqualified him from driving for seven years and refused leave to appeal. As the terms will run concurrently, in effect Goldrick will only serve one year in jail.