An eighteen-year-old Ballina man who drove his car at another youth resulting in him being flung onto the roof of the car was given a five year suspended sentence at last week’s sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court.
The incident occurred at 4am on August 15, 2009 at Pearse Street, Ballina when David Higgins of Shanaghy Heights, Ballina hit Padraig Dunne with his car. The court heard that Mr Higgins had driven at Mr Dunne with the attention of making him jump off the road but he hit him.
Garda Charles Elliot who witnessed the incident explained that Mr Dunne had stepped onto the road and Mr Higgins’ car had increased its speed as it moved towards the victim. Mr Dunne was then flung onto the bonnet and as the car swerved over the road, he was thrown onto the windscreen and roof before landing on the road. Mr Higgins failed to stop at the scene.
The force of the impact smashed the windscreen and Mr Dunne suffered a fractured ankle and wrist. The court heard that Mr Dunne will have to have a bone graft from his hip to repair the fractured bone in his wrist and may suffer from osteoarthritis in the future.
Garda Elliot explained that there was ‘history’ between the two men and there had been an incident earlier that night in Enniscrone between two gangs of young people. However he said this was the first time it resulted in violence.
Thirty minutes following the incident Mr Higgins presented himself to Ballina Garda Station where he stated that he wanted to make Mr Dunne jump off the road. Garda Elliot described Mr Higgins as a ‘hothead’ who was convicted of public order offences which occurred after this incident.
Mr Fergus O’Connor, BL for the defendant said his client had served 60 days in St Patrick’s Institute which he described as a ‘tough experience’ and one he was not expecting. He said a probation report showed his risk of reoffending was moderate which will be reduced to low if he abstains from drink.
Mr O’Connor said his client hung his head in shame with what happened and his family were offering €5,000 in compensation to Mr Dunne.
Judge Tony Hunt said the force with which Mr Dunne was hit was enough to smash the windscreen and told Mr Higgins he was fortunate he was not facing a charge of causing a fatality. He said that while Mr Dunne was ‘up and about’ he did not imagine getting a bone graft was ‘much fun’ and the long term consequences of the wrist injury will not improve his enjoyment of life.
Judge Hunt told Mr Higgins he regarded the offence as being at the ‘upper level of seriousness’ but also had to take into account his immaturity and the fact he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
Judge Hunt said he was going to impose a suspended prison sentence for a substantial period of time but warned him that he will have to deal with his drinking or he will be going to jail.
“Mr Higgins knows what awaits him if he steps out of line again. He has used up all of his lives and the next time he is before the court he will be seen as a serial offender and will be dealt with accordingly. I will hold the sentence over him for a protracted period of time because I am worried the penny has not quite dropped,” he said.
Judge Hunt sentenced Mr Higgins to five years imprisonment but suspended the sentence for seven years on the condition he is of good behaviour. He also disqualified him from driving for five years.