A man charged with causing the death of a Garda officer after knocking him down with his car while trying to flee a roadblock in Co Donegal was yesterday jailed for six years.
Jamie McGrenaghan (19) had admitted dangerous driving causing the death of garda Robbie McCallion in Letterkenny on March 26, 2009.
There were emotional scenes in court as garda McCallion's family praised gardai for their support but refused to accept any apology from McGrenaghan's family.
The dead man's family yesterday said they had been very disappointed about a not guilty verdict in the manslaughter trial last week.
A jury had unanimously decided that McGrenaghan was not guilty of the manslaughter of garda McCallion.
The court had earlier heard that McGrenaghan went with another man, Cathal Dunleavy, to steal a car at Tara Court in Letterkenny. Gardai tried to block the men's escape route by putting their patrol car across the road but McGrenaghan reversed his car 100 yards before accelerating at the officers and sending garda McCallion 15ft into the air.
Yesterday, the heartbroken relatives sobbed at the back of Letterkenny Circuit Court as the sentence was delivered.
In a highly-charged courtroom, Judge John O'Hagan said it was a very, very serious case but one in which he must not seek to take revenge on Jamie McGrenaghan.
However, he said he appreciated that gardai went out on to the streets every day to protect the lives of the public.
“Robbie McCallion was a member of the Garda, who go out to look after us. They are not called guardians of the peace for nothing. They take risks on our behalf,” he said.
He criticised public representatives for questioning his advice to the jury to ignore the fact that Robert McCallion was a garda.
“Some people have decided to rush to judgment but that is a matter for them and their opinion. I will supply the law and that is what I will do,” he said.
He sentenced McCallion to seven years for dangerous driving causing death and suspended the last year of the sentence. He also jailed him for three years for stealing a car, five years for recklessly endangering two other gardai when he drove at them, and three years for each of eight burglary and criminal damage charges.
All sentences will run concurrently, meaning that the longest he could spend in jail is six years.
Garda McCallion's brother-in-law Marty Roughneen, reading a statement after sentencing, said: “We are very disappointed with the verdict last Friday. Members of An Garda Siochana do their duty day in and day out. Protecting the communities in which they work. Their services are vital to the maintenance of law and order and that is what Robert was doing when he was fatally injured.
“Robert was at Tara Court for no other reason than he was carrying out his duty as a garda and to say the least we are heartbroken at the circumstances in which he lost his life, which should never have happened.
“Gardai, as Robert did, often put themselves in situation where they risk life and limb. It is of vital importance that they are adequately protected when they are carrying out their duties and in particular that there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that the fate that befell Robert does not happen again.
“They protect us, who is going to protect them?”